Category Archives: Maori Policy

He Tangata – Maori Policy, Economics & Moral Philosophy

The Moral Challenge to the Status Quo and to Neo-liberal Theology

The slogan “It’s the economy, stupid” coined during President Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 election campaign perfectly describes Maori policy that would deliver for all Maori people.

By “economy” I don’t mean the grandiose idea of the “Maori economy” or the mythical “iwi economy”. I mean the real economy.

I have been writing that the national economy ought to be the primary concern of Maori policy makers, because of its crucial impact on the wellbeing and livelihoods of all Maori especially the poor and the unemployed, the disenfranchised and the disinherited. I’ve approached that economic theme from different angles in these four essays.

The Maori Worldview & Maori Policy
Perspectives of time, small prophecy and Maori policy
Draining the Swamp – Some Fundamentals for Maori Policy Makers
Challenging the Status Quo. A Call to Reengage in the Struggle.

Twelve months ago in full flight writing this series I was like all of the activists and the Maori policy establishment; economically under-endowed. Understanding the need to focus on the national economy in Maori policy was one thing. Understanding just how national economic policy might better serve the needs of all Maori was something else again. Thus began a long hard journey into economic theory.

For it is hard work. This essay is a start and it will be hard work too. I promise.

Too much of our activism focuses on issues which are symptoms not causes. TPPA is a case in point; a serious symptom but a symptom nonetheless. We need to focus on the underlying cause, the current political and economic paradigm, and that is going to be hard work. Focusing on the symptoms is the easy way forward, and in the long run the least effective. We’ve been doing that for the last thirty years while macroeconomic policy and practice has totally undermined all of the supposed gains in Maori policy. In theory and in practice we have to make the connection between economics and Maori policy.

So I’m still reading political economy with a lot more knowledge but I’m probably not much wiser. It’s a truism that the more you know the more you realise how much you don’t know. Which can be frustrating. But the political economy is too important in our lives to be left to politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, economists and the media. An early realisation was that politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, economists and the media don’t know much about economics either.

Which is not to say that economists don’t know about economics. The trouble is that there are widely differing economic theories and even the economists can’t agree on what theories to apply in what economic circumstances, or even what causes the different economic conditions in which they might apply the economic remedies they can’t agree on. Let alone predict those economic conditions. And there are economists who can’t agree with themselves (on the one hand this, on the other hand that). “Give me a one-handed economist”, famously said US President Harry S. Truman.

Sometimes the political and economic debate can get quite heated and it is almost always decided by vested interest and ideology. What usually happens is that between the economist and the politician they get it arse about face and apply the wrong remedies at the wrong time, or the right remedies at the wrong time, or the wrong remedies at the right time. You know what I mean; we rarely get the right remedy at the right time.

The question is “How does one grasp the essentials of economic theory and practice and apply that knowledge to Maori policy?”

It’s a tough one. Enlightenment is not easy to come by. I was early on reminded of the long standoff between science and religion. In economics the two come together. Economics seems to me to be a pursuit sometimes but not always intellectual and conceived as science, and in its application almost always religious and practised as dogma. Additionally economists seem determined to avoid incorporating human nature into economic theory preferring instead the easy path of assuming that all humans will act rationally and according to the concept of Homo Economicus. It is a study of human behaviour without the encumbrance of human nature.

Now I’ve read economists who “prove” that all economic decisions are rational decisions even if the makers of those decisions don’t realise it or understand the rationale behind their decisions. The proofs can be quite convincing. But I’m inclined to think that these are ex post facto rationalisations; rationalising the irrational after the event. Humankind is extraordinarily gifted in that regard; even economists.

These are important lessons for the maker of Maori policy, even before we begin to grapple with economic theory. We are not alone in our ignorance and we should never bow to those who claim expertise, especially not to the politician who is usually the least expert among us.

Enlightenment burst upon me from out of left field in a recent book by James Lovelock, independent scientist and inventor, and the originator with the late Lyn Margolis, of the concept of Gaia describing Earth as a living ecosystem. In one of his latest books “A Rough Ride to the Future” he wrote about climate change. He caused me to realise that none of us has the answers, certainly not the politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and media, and not even the economists.

Lovelock wrote that twenty years ago climate scientists had after much research uncovered so much about atmospheric climate that they thought their mathematical computer models were quite reliable. Then about ten years ago they realised that they needed to know a lot more about oceanic climate and the huge effects that oceans have on climate. Today the computer models incorporate all they now know about the oceans but still they are deficient. Now they have to research and incorporate into their models as much data as they can about the huge influence of the biosphere on climate, the influence of all living things including the bacteria.

Climate scientists are still at the point where they don’t know it all. They know a lot more than everyone else including all those political, religious and corporate climate change deniers but they still don’t know it all, or even enough to guarantee that their models and predictions are reliable. That’s science.

Human activity has some influence on climate and some of it is undoubtedly negative and causing some degree of worrying climate change. But nevertheless the main influences are the Sun and the Moon, the solar system, the greater Universe, the land mass, the atmosphere, the oceans and the sum total of the biosphere. These main influences are relatively stable over enormous periods of time with disturbances in the Force from time to time, measured in thousands and millions of years.

By comparison the global economy and our national economy are entirely human constructs, enormously unstable and unpredictable and affected daily by the economic decisions of seven billion humans, and the self-interested decisions of hundreds of governments and hundreds of thousands of corporations, not to mention the modern economic plague – an electronic herd daily placing billions of bets in the gigantic casinos that are the global capital and commodities marketplaces. Once bastions of financial conservatism the banks are now active participants in the global casino. Trust and morality have evaporated.

I suspect that as the technological revolution exponentially increases the pace of change in all human affairs the economic theorists are being left further and further behind, applying theories that applied to past events against a barely understandable present and a totally unpredictable future. The growth of the new BRIC super-economies of China, India, Russia and Brazil is adding little-understood and daily unfolding complexity to the global economy. When China sniffs we all sneeze. So how can anyone possibly understand it all or build a computer model of the economy that is even 50% reliable. They can’t and they don’t.

I am of course being terribly unkind to economists. We know that the future is increasingly unknowable and unpredictable and that the future now comes upon us at a pace unimaginable just fifty years ago. Yet we expect economists to act as a modern caste of oracle or soothsayer and to predict it for us. We may as well consult the horoscope. Except in hindsight no one anticipates mystical disturbances in the Force like the 2008 global financial crisis and other greater and lesser crises, like for instance depressions, recessions, bubbles and the raising and lowering of oil prices by OPEC, or the increase or decrease of supply by Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately many economists (and too many politicians) try to live up to our irrational expectations of them and try, whether from hubris or ignorance, to don the mantle of oracle, soothsayer or prophet.

Treasury produces forecasts based on enormously complex but ultimately unreliable computer modelling attempting to predict the outcome of different policy choices, and governments act on the forecasts. These are mathematical models lacking animation by human nature, and ethical or moral moderation; lacking also the randomness and chance of the events that shape our lives, including economic events. And in truth all macroeconomic forecasts venture into the realm of prophecy. In producing his (and maybe her) annual budgets the Treasurer is acting as fortune teller, or more commonly as the fortune teller’s stage assistant. The prophecies are typically about the next four or five years but we focus only on the current year and don’t actually notice that the longer term prophetic forecasts are usually just a mathematical wish list of hogwash.

It’s an annual exercise in pulling the wool over the eyes of the electorate; buying the votes that matter and for the rest of us creating a semblance of economic mastery, for we are inclined to vote for those who are able to subliminally convince us of their economic credentials where none exist. In reality we just muddle through from year to year and scramble to deal with disturbances in the Force. A bit like life in general.

Meanwhile economists keep searching on their quest for the holy grail of economics; a rational explanation for economic and business cycles and a theory that will allow them to be predicted, and hopefully make budgets a scientific pursuit. Mystical disturbances in the Force might be a more useful thesis. The mystical has served us well ever since the dawn of civilisation and there are still identifiable traces of mysticism in much economic theorising. The “invisible hand of the market” is the most well-known mystical belief, much revered in neo-liberal metaphysics. “Homo Economicus” is a mystical construct. Money itself is not about the value of the paper it is printed on or the metal in the coin, but is a matter of trust, of belief and faith in the value of exchange that it represents.

With such widespread faith in metaphysical belief little wonder that “money” has achieved the status of a god, and in this day and age “market” is not far behind.

Escaping from the abstract back to the material, in this globalising and technology driven economic environment transnational corporations have usurped and continue to usurp the economic functions of nation states and to evade any obligation to the nation state; notably taxation. Totally motivated by profit they care nothing for the health of national economies or the wellbeing of the people. Neither do they yet have any regard for the health of the soil, the water, the air, or the planet. They are ungovernable by national governments, democratic and otherwise. Thus is global business and the global economy ungovernable, and becoming increasingly so, by anyone. Most nation states are already in the position where they can only manoeuvre in response to forces beyond their control.

In New Zealand’s case perhaps it was always so despite the aura of expertise and control our politicians like to project.

The secret Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is disguised as a free trade agreement but is more likely a strategic plank in America’s attempts to shore up its global dominance in the face of an increasingly powerful Chinese economy, accompanied by increasing Chinese economic, diplomatic and military reach. A large part of the US economic strategy seems to be based on gaining for US corporations much more legal, political and economic power within the TPPA and similar agreements. The US seems to be trying to counter centralised Chinese economic power with globally distributed US corporate power and by handing economic governance to the corporates. As a plank in the projection of global economic power the TPPA and many similar US initiated agreements sit alongside America’s continuing global projection of military power to control the oceans, space and cyberspace, and the now infamous “Five Eyes” projection of global surveillance.

Concealing these imperial geopolitical aims from us our New Zealand negotiators promise economic benefits but as always the US will attend to its own interests first and foremost regardless of what is promised in any agreement. It can be 100% guaranteed that none of our negotiators really knows the consequences of TPPA. The benefits are about hope rather than certainty. Much like economic theory itself. The proclaimed economic benefits of the TPPA are based on economic modelling that has been shown to be deeply flawed but if a model “proves” what its proponents want it to prove then it becomes infallible. The unintended economic and other consequences of TPPA await us.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

So. Does anyone really understand the economy, and does anyone really know how to control what happens in our national economy?

    The politician and economist is like a person at the oars of a raft in white water – there is no control, only expert or inexpert attempts to steer, mostly inexpert. The river is in control”. (Richard Manning, “Against the Grain”).

Tossed about on this wild river we must try to steer our way into policy that benefits all New Zealanders and in our case, all Maori. To extend the metaphor we are reminded of the navigators of old setting sail across vast oceans. Those intrepid wayfinders found certainty in the stars they steered by. We too should have clear and certain stars to guide us. A good place to start is with Adam Smith, the “grandfather” of modern economics and one of its original steersmen.

Before I started this odyssey into the theory and practice of political economy I already knew that almost everyone who quoted Adam Smith had never read let alone studied Adam Smith. That is especially so of politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and the media but also surprisingly or not, of economists. He is most quoted these days in support of neo-liberal ideology. His almost throwaway remark about the “invisible hand” is much quoted to validate theories about the free market or market liberalism. His “Wealth of Nations” is his only work ever quoted in an economic context. If we are to challenge the orthodoxy of these times we need to get to know Adam Smith.

Adam Smith and the Enlightenment

Adam Smith (1723 – 1790) was first and foremost one of the intellectual leaders of the 18th Century British Enlightenment which unlike the French and the American Enlightenments emphasised the sociology of virtue rather than the ideology of reason (France) or the politics of liberty (USA). There was however considerable crossover of ideas between the three of them and other centres of Enlightenment thought including Germany.

The Enlightenment has been many things to many philosophers but it might be described as a project to achieve a condition in which human beings think for themselves rather than in accordance with the dictates of authority such as tradition and religion, or princes and priests. It championed the use of reason in the moral and practical affairs of humankind. It displaced the ruling and property owning classes of the 17th & 18th Centuries and brought forth a number of institutions including:

    • Representative democracy;
    • Legal systems protecting the rights of individuals;
    • Free market economy; and
    • Public education.

Enlightenment thinkers applied reason to the study of moral philosophy, seeking the nature and content of moral rules in reason rather than in the authority of tradition and religion. Among them were Locke, Hume, Diderot, Bentham, Robespierre, Jefferson and Kant.

Adam Smith was one of them; a moral philosopher. His earlier work is his “Theory of Moral Sentiments” which he himself regarded as his major work and which he continued to revise long after the publication of “Wealth of Nations“, his much misquoted treatise on political economy.

Adam Smith clearly believed that the practice of economic management had both intellectual and moral dimensions. The economic Master of the 20th Century, John Maynard Keynes, was also absolutely firm in that belief.

In our own time it is clear that the global economic downturn following the near collapse of the global economy in 2008-2009 is fundamentally due to both intellectual and moral failure; that is to the failure of the economic theories of the times themselves devoid of moral context.

The Morality of Power

In this essay we shall explore the moral dimension as it relates to the political economy. The broader study of moral philosophy is highly intellectual and highly technical and could give us a headache trying to get to grips with it; so we won’t try. Well I won’t anyway.

The intellectual dimension of the political economy will be the subject of the next essays in this series.

In my previous essay “Challenging the Power Elite and Challenging the Status Quo” I called for us “to commit again to the struggle to challenge the status quo and to break the political, social and economic paradigm that consigns so many of our people to the serried ranks of the disenfranchised and disinherited”.

The first challenge is to the legitimacy of the power that maintains that paradigm. The power elite must be challenged to justify their power and their use of it. Does it serve the interests of the disenfranchised and disinherited. Does it serve the interests of society, of the future or the environment. But the most fundamental challenge is this – what is the moral justification for the possession of that power and the policies it spurns.

What follows is a (fairly) long exploration of moral philosophy in relation to the political economy. Its primary focus is on one of the absolutes of modern economics; the theory of the invisible hand of self-interest guiding market perfection and in determining all economic behaviour.

The Sociology of Virtue

The core thinking in the British Enlightenment was variously described as the promotion of moral sense, moral sentiments, social affections or social virtues. Those virtues included benevolence, pity, sympathy, compassion and “fellow-feeling”. That period has been described as “The Age of Benevolence” and “New Humanitarianism”. Those attitudes that were not considered virtuous included self-affection, self-love, self-interest and self-good. This was the thinking of the “grandfather” of economics, Adam Smith.

It espoused the concept of the greatest good for the greatest number and contained within it the seeds of egalitarianism that later came to be thought a quintessential part of the New Zealand character.

The Enlightenment and Enlightenment thinking led to the abolition of slavery, to many social reforms, and to an age of philanthropy. Economics was itself one of the pinnacles of Enlightenment thought.

It also gave rise to an era of world-wide evangelism. Enlightenment theologians refashioned beliefs as a solution to the religious dogmatism and intolerance of previous centuries. They espoused rational theology, moderation and reason. The Church Missionary Society (CMS) which evangelised in early New Zealand was a product of the Enlightenment. Apart from its evangelical mission the CMS was dedicated to giving practical form to both the religious and secular moral philosophy of the British Enlightenment.

Education for the poor became part of the Enlightenment mission. This too found its way to New Zealand expressed in a different context in the early establishment of schools for Maori by the churches and state. That of course included Te Aute College in 1854, established on Enlightenment principles, both religious and secular.

Captain James Cook, Joseph Banks, Samuel Marsden, Thomas Kendall, William Colenso, Octavious Hadfield, Henry Williams, William Williams, Edward Gibbon Wakefield and many other settlers, colonisers and missionaries were all influenced by the Enlightenment and Enlightenment thinking.

Adam Smith’s “Moral Sentiments” was one of the main influences of his own time and into the New Zealand colonial period. In the last year of his life, some years after his text “Wealth of Nations” on the political economy was published, he revised “Moral Sentiments”. He added a final chapter entitled “Of the Corruption of Our Moral Sentiments, Which is Occasioned by This Disposition to Admire the Rich and Great, and to Despise or Neglect Persons of Poor and Mean Condition“.

He wrote:

    “Hence it is that to feel much for others and little for ourselves, that to restrain our selfish and to indulge our benevolent affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature“.

He also wrote:

    “The rich and the great are too often preferred to the wise and the virtuous”.

He seems to be describing our own times.

This Adam Smith was no neo-liberal economist but his writings are often quoted totally out of context to add lustre to neo-liberal theology. He was a promoter of the free market but not totally unrestrained markets. His markets were those constrained by moral sentiments.

In Adam Smith’s time the economy and business was subject to the sort of moral constraint that the moral philosophers advocated. Today all of those restraints have gone and with them the true import of the type of economy that Adam Smith described in “Wealth of Nations“. His economic analysis and his key economic assumptions remain at the core of microeconomic theory today but the context has changed totally.

The important first principle of Adam Smith’s thinking on the political economy is that he understood economics to be a subset of moral philosophy. Adam Smith understood economics to be a subset of moral philosophy.

So the challenge and the message to the power elite is that if you choose to privilege self-interest over the common good you won’t find your justification in Adam Smith no matter how hard you try.

And try they do. Would you believe that when the University of Chicago published a bicentennial edition of “The Wealth of Nations” they distorted the original text because Adam Smith was actually strongly opposed to all of the stuff the neoliberals spout in his name. The introduction to that “scholarly” text is opposed to Smith’s original text on many points. A whole passage of the original text on the division of labour was simply deleted. The University of Chicago is the birthplace of modern supply side and neo-liberal economics.

The moral philosophy underlying any economic policy, theory and practice is something we can all readily understand. It’s not rocket science. It is a debate in which we can all equally participate. It should therefore be at the centre of all public debate and public policy formation. All of the rest of it is technical mumbo jumbo most often deployed to confuse the public and to give the appearance of expertise. The mumbo jumbo is deployed also to conceal the real moral philosophy in economic practice, or indeed the lack of moral philosophy.

In public policy first we define (or neglect to define) our moral principles and goals (or lack thereof) then we reach for the requisite social, political and economic tools to achieve our moral (or other) purpose.

The start point then in economic and Maori policy is to clearly define a moral philosophy on which policy is built. We need to shift the debate from the techniques of economic management to what it is supposed to achieve.

The moral philosophy of Adam Smith and other thinkers of the British Enlightenment had a profound effect on New Zealand society in general and on Maori society as well. As we have seen the Church Missionary Society and its clerical and lay missions to the colonies including New Zealand were heavily influenced by British Enlightenment thinking. So too were many of the earlier government officials. That thinking led to a gentler colonisation of New Zealand than had occurred in earlier colonisations. Like all sets of principles, values, morals and ethics it was often breached in practice but nevertheless that thinking did to a significant extent moderate colonial practice. It would have been much worse in an earlier time. One has only to look across the ditch to Australia to appreciate that.

The Williams family of clergymen and Enlightenment thinkers included Archdeacon Samuel Williams who founded Te Aute College in 1854. John Thornton who was its headmaster for about 24 years (1878 – 1912) and who was similarly influenced by the Enlightenment had an enormous influence on the thinking of a whole generation of Maori leadership (Apirana Ngata, Te Rangi Hiroa, Reweti Kohere, Tutere Wi Repa, Maui Pomare, Edward Ellison and others) while they were at school and afterwards. Their “Association for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Maori Race” was a classic Enlightenment project. It later morphed into “Te Aute College Students Association” and then into the “Young Maori Party”.

Thus it was that Adam Smith and other Enlightenment thinkers indirectly influenced a whole generation of ground breaking Maori leadership. And you thought they were influenced entirely by tikanga Maori?

John Maynard Keynes (1883 – 1946)

Keynes was the economic master of the first half of the 20th Century at about the time when the Maori protégés of Williams and Thornton were making their mark on New Zealand and Maori society. His “Keynesian” legacy lasted for some twenty years after his death until displaced by the present neo-classical or neo-liberal orthodoxy. We will leave an exploration of his economic theories and impact until the next essay(s). However he is an important figure in our present study of the moral dimension of political economy.

John Keynes studied political economy under Alfred Marshall at Cambridge University. Marshall (1822 – 1924) was a classical economist and his “Principles of Economics” set the stage for 20th Century economics until the theories of Keynes. Marshall was also grounded in philosophy and ethics and wrote:

    Ethical forces are among those the economist has to take account”.

Keynes did not think of himself as an economist but rather as a moral philosopher with a practical bent and a mission to forge economic practices that promoted the common good. He was not as many think a socialist but was a capitalist and investor with a moral conscience. He was one of the most brilliant minds of his time, admired even by the immensely clever philosopher Lord Bertrand Russell.

He was enormously influenced by the philosophy of G.E.Moore, a contemporary of Bertrand Russell and with Russell one of the leading 20th Century analytic philosophers. Moore wrote and taught at Cambridge University, where Keynes was educated and where he lived and taught for the rest of his life when he wasn’t in London, Versailles or Washington advising governments on economic policy.

Keynes was many things other than an economist and capitalist with a social conscience. He was a member of the London based “Bloomsbury Set” which challenged the status quo, the traditions and standards of their times some forty years before the cultural revolution of the 1960s. He mixed with writers, poets and artists and brought a creativity and flexibility of mind to his work in economic theory and practice.

But underlying it all was his intellectual base in the moral philosophy of G.E.Moore. In that respect he was not unlike Adam Smith although his ideas broke away from Smith’s classical economics.

Virtue Ethics

There are a diverse range of approaches and equally diverse theoretical constructs within the broad study of moral philosophy. Both Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes can in some ways be seen as part of the whakapapa of the modern branch of moral philosophy known as virtue ethics. It is this intellectual stream that we will tap into in our present exploration of the moral dimension of the political economy and Maori policy.

Stating it very simply virtue ethics is about “rightness” and about how one should lead one’s whole life including the economic life. It has deep historical roots in Western society especially in the thinking of Aristotle. In many ways it can be seen as compatible with the deep historical roots of the virtues in Maori society. Later in the essay we will explore a Maori moral dimension along the same lines.

Alisdair MacIntyre is a key figure in the field of virtue ethics.

In 1981 he wrote “After Virtue” widely considered to be one of the most important works of moral and political philosophy in the 20th Century. He thought that the Enlightenment project, in rejecting the old and espousing the new had led ultimately to the rejection of moral rationality altogether by many subsequent influential thinkers. His aim was to revive the idea of the virtues espoused by Aristotle, updated for the modern context, for he contends that all modern attempts to construct moral philosophy are in one way or another dependant on Aristotle.

According to MacIntyre moral disputes take place between rival traditions of thought that we have inherited from the distant past. Our moral ideas of today have an intellectual whakapapa and to understand why we think the way we do we need to understand that whakapapa.

MacIntyre begins with the question about what comprises a good human life, a question the ancient Greeks grappled with. Before Aristotle Homeric values emphasised competition whereas Athenian values prized cooperation, the one being the basis of an heroic individualistic society and the other a society based on the common good. Heir to those influences, Aristotle sought to define a society based on the virtues.

On another parallel whakapapa line the two strands of teaching of the scriptures and of Plato were integrated into the Augustinian view of Christianity. Later still Thomas Aquinas merged the Augustinian and Aristotelian into what became the theological and intellectual basis of modern Christianity. Still later Calvin and the Enlightenment thinkers such as Hume and Smith, according to MacIntyre, by breaking continuity with the ideas of the past opened the way for what eventually became today’s liberal individualism.

In that sense whilst Adam Smith did not himself espouse liberal individualism he may well have unwittingly helped pave the way for its eventual dominance.

Two hundred years ago that whakapapa of ideas collided and slowly merged with the Maori concept of society, morality and virtue. It was of course a society in which the collective was privileged above the individual and although it has rapidly evolved alongside and sometimes within the other the key concepts need not be subsumed.

Few people in the policy domain really understand where their ideas and ideology originated and for the maker of Maori policy, seeking to challenge the status quo, knowing why people think the way they do is an important intellectual weapon. For in challenging the status quo we are challenging ideas and ideology. In that respect the work of MacIntyre in moral and political philosophy is instructive. This brief explanation barely touches the sweep of his ideas but serves to introduce him in the context of moral philosophy and Maori policy and to bring Aristotle into our exploration of the moral dimension of the political economy.

We should know why we think the way we do. Most of this essay is an attempt to answer the question about why some of us privilege self-interest and some of us the commons.

A Scientific Dimension
Neuroscience

In science there are developing new lines of thought on the moral dimension. In fact many scientific researchers are turning to the moral philosophy of Adam Smith in “Moral Sentiments” to provide a contextual understanding of their laboratory experiments.

    “Experimental economists have discovered that people often act from a variety of motives, including self-interest, benevolence and justice. Neuroscientists have also discovered a mirror neuron network in the brain that mimics fellow feeling, and the hormone oxytocin associated with emotional bonding. These discoveries provide evidence for Adam Smith’s moral sentiments theory.”(Jonathon Wright, 2015, “Ethics in Economics, An Introduction to Moral Frameworks“).

We should watch closely the evolution of this line of inquiry.

Socio-biology – The Evolution of the Social & Moral Dimension

As well as neuroscience there is another new stream of interesting scientific research. The writings of Edward O. Wilson in social biology or socio-biology are particularly interesting and relevant, specifically his “The Social Conquest of Earth“.

E.O.Wilson’s ideas are not universally accepted or popular and are vehemently opposed by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, author of “The Selfish Gene”. This is essentially an intellectual duel between two Darwinists and evolutionists, the one (Dawkins) promoting genetic and individual evolution and the other (Wilson) proposing co-evolution, both genetic and social evolution, individual and group evolution, or multi-level evolution.

Nevertheless Wilson does provide us with some useful ideas on which we might base our moral philosophy. In his theory about the origin of morality in answer to the age old question about whether mankind is innately good but corruptible by the forces of evil, or innately wicked but redeemable by the forces of good, he proposes that we are both. This dilemma of good and evil was created by the process of multi-level evolution in which:

    “Individual selection and group selection act together on the one individual but largely in opposition to each other. Individual selection is the competition for survival and reproduction among members of the same group. It shapes instincts in each member that are fundamentally selfish with reference to other members. In contrast, group selection consists of competition between societies, both through direct conflict and in differential competence in exploiting the environment. Group selection shapes instincts that tend to make individuals altruistic toward one another (but not towards members of other groups). Individual selection is responsible for much of what we call sin, while group selection is responsible for the greater part of virtue. Together they have created the conflict between the poorer and better angels of our nature“.

In bringing together research in molecular genetics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, archaeology, ecology, social psychology and history into a theory of social evolution. he proposes that Homo sapiens is a “eusocial” species, in which group members containing multiple generations are “prone to perform altruistic acts as part of their division of labour” and bonding within the group is based on cooperation. Nevertheless evolutionary selection at the group or social level is based on altruism, cooperation, competition, domination, reciprocity, defection and deceit. We are all of us both selfish and selfless, a balance of altruism and self-interest. We are as individuals prone to sin and as cooperating groups given to virtue; part saint and part sinner.

According to Wilson it was group selection that catapulted our species to its present advanced state of civilisation compared to all other species. We are therefore genetically inclined to seek membership of a group or groups whether they be tribal, religious, sporting, vocational and many other groupings, and to act in the best interests of the group. The only precept that appears in all organised religions is the altruistic Golden Rule; “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you“, or variations on the same theme.

He states that the iron rule in genetic and social evolution is that “selfish individuals will always beat altruistic individuals, but that groups of altruists will always beat groups of selfish individuals”.

In sociobiological terms we evolved selfishly and altruistically into tribal and hapu societies both in the Old World and in Aotearoa New Zealand. In those societies there was competition for status and reproductive rights but group cohesion and solidarity was paramount in the eternal struggle against other tribes or hapu for dominance and resources. In the Old World after the agricultural revolution and with more plentiful supplies of food larger societies evolved and about 5000 to 7000 years ago religion and government arose to impose social control and political harmony on those larger societies. Wilson saw organised religion as an expression of the earlier tribalism. That situation persists although the British Enlightenment and its ideas about the sociology of virtue loosened religious dominance and reformed political practice.

In Aotearoa New Zealand the hapu and its tikanga predominated until the arrival of the Old World, its religion, its government and its relatively recent Enlightenment ideas.

Morality as social cohesion and control can be traced through that evolutionary path to the present day. Except that over the last thirty years the trail has become less well signposted. But we need to be clear about our moral philosophy as the foundation of policy.

In forming a moral philosophy for today and for today’s policy we must decide whether we tend towards the poorer or better angels of our nature, towards the altruistic or selfish, towards cooperation or competition. Realistically of course we need to be clear about how we harness both sides of human nature in the service of society. We are forced to form a view of the human nature and of the moral philosophy at the centre of our economic, Maori and other policy.

Socio-economics – The Social & Moral Dimension in Economics

We move now from socio-biology to socio-economics to explore the same issues. Whereas E.O.Wilson sees our subject from a biological and social evolutionary perspective In “The Moral Dimension – Towards a New Economics” communitarian Amitai Etzioni explores the duality of our natures, altruism and self-interest from within research and evidence in the social sciences.

Throughout this essay and in this section I refer often to paradigms. Etzioni provides us with a useful definition:

    Paradigms provide an orderly way of thinking about a disorderly world”.

The paradigm is not the world, and often not even remotely like the world it seeks to simplify. Such is the case with the neo-liberal paradigm.

    “Assuming human beings see themselves as members of a community and as self-seeking individuals, how are the lines drawn between the commitments to the commons and to one’s self? At issue is the paradigm we use in trying to make sense out of the social world that surrounds us, and of which we are an integral part; the paradigm we apply in the quest to understand and improve ourselves, those dear to us, and those not so dear”.

He sees two dominant paradigms:

    • An entrenched utilitarian, rationalistic-individualistic, neoclassical paradigm in which neoclassical (neo-liberal) economics has a flagship role; and
    • A social-conservative paradigm that sees individuals as morally deficient and often irrational, hence requiring a strong authority to control their impulses, direct their endeavours, and maintain order.

The two are not mutually exclusive and can be held both at the same time by the same people, for instance in economic (neo-liberal) policy and in security (social conservative) policy. Paradigmatic schizophrenia if you will. Perhaps those so afflicted are simply lacking a defined and guiding moral philosophy.

The neoclassical paradigm does not recognise community or society as an entity in itself but only as a collection of self-interested individuals. The neoclassical paradigm holds that it is the sum total of the activities of self-interested individuals that creates prosperity for all and that there is no place for community in the economy, especially if community is represented by government.

In this book Etzioni is concerned about the first paradigm, the one that has governed economic activity for the last thirty years. He does not seek to extinguish that paradigm but to moderate it by including it within a new paradigm that serves the common good as well as harnessing individual self-interest. To achieve that he proposes that the assumptions underlying the neoclassical paradigm be modified:

    • That the neoclassical paradigm that maximises just one utility (pleasure, happiness or consumption) is extended to maximise two utilities (pleasure and morality);
    • That whereas economic decisions are held to be made rationally we also recognise that values and emotions also play a part in decision making in both the social and economic spheres;
    • That where the neoclassical paradigm holds that the individual is the decision making unit we recognise that social collectives (ethnic, racial, peer groups, work groups, neighbourhood groups) are also part of the decision making process and that even individual decisions often reflect group values;
    • That whereas the market economy is seen as a separate system, a self-containing, perfect competition model we should see the economy as a sub-system of society, polity and culture.

The social context in which there is a partial overlap of the values and priorities of the individual and the commons is the essential difference between the neoclassical paradigm and the new paradigm proposed by Etzioni.

In relation to morality he too goes back to and quotes from Adam Smith’s “Moral Sentiments”;

    “How selfish so ever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him”.

He explores and cites the research and evidence concerning:

    • Morality, doing what is right rather than what is pleasurable;
    • Altruism, interest in the fortunes of others; and
    • Commitment to the commons, or to the common good.

The premises of this socio-economic position encompass moral duty, altruism and a commitment to the commons as well as individual pleasure.

    “Examination of behaviour shows that individuals who seek to live up to their moral commitments behave in a manner that is systematically different from those who act to enhance their pleasures”.

The balanced approach is to advance individual well-being and to act morally.

So if we accept that there is a moral dimension to our lives as individuals and as a society, and the evidence clearly suggests that there is, then we ought to decide just how that moral dimension should influence policy. That calls for a modification to the prevailing neo-classical or neo-liberal paradigm, for the logical extension to that paradigm is either that we no longer live according to the moral dimension or we that we exclude the moral dimension from public policy consideration.

The logical extension is that moral values be replaced by market values.

Political Philosophy

Michael J. Sandel is arguably one of the leading philosophers and public intellectuals of these times.

He is a political philosopher and a professor at Harvard University where he has taught his famous “Justice” course for over two decades to over 15,000 students. He has published the content of this course in “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” (2010) and it is the basis of a free online extension course and radio and TV documentaries. He has also published on ethics and morality in politics. Specific to our subject of moral philosophy in economics is his “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets” (2012).

In it he argues that:

    “We live at a time when almost everything can be bought and sold. Over the past three decades, markets – and market values – have come to govern our lives as never before. We did not arrive at this condition through any deliberate choice. It is almost as if it came upon us”.

    “As the Cold War ended, markets and market thinking enjoyed unrivalled prestige, understandably so. No other mechanism for organizing the production and distribution of goods had proved as successful at generating affluence and prosperity. And yet, as growing numbers of countries around the world embraced market mechanisms in the operation of their economies, something else was happening. Market values were coming to play a greater and greater role in social life. Economics was becoming an imperial domain. Today, the logic of buying and selling no longer applies to material goods alone but increasingly governs the whole of life. It is time to ask whether we want to live this way”.

The last thirty years has been a time of market faith and deregulation, the faith that markets are the primary means of achieving the public good, described by Sandel as an era of market triumphalism. It began with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and in New Zealand with Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson (and the bureaucrats and corporates who did their thinking for them). In New Zealand we are now applying the market to social service provision.

The 2008 global financial crisis brought that market triumphalism to an end casting doubt on the ability of markets to allocate risk efficiently and fairly. It also caused widespread belief that markets have become detached from morality and that we need somehow to reconnect them. That detachment comprises the central thesis of “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets”.

The major cause of this transition was not just greed. Greed played a role but the most fateful change was the expansion of markets and of market values into spheres of life where they don’t belong. We now need a public debate about the moral limits of markets. Sometimes market values crowd out non-market values worth caring about. We don’t all agree what values are worth caring about but in policy we ought to debate and decide what values should govern the various domains of social and civic life.

Drawing on research in behavioural economics and social psychology Sandel shows using many real life examples that commercialisation of an activity changes it and that:

    • money corrupts;
    • market relations crowd out non-market norms; and
    • market values crowd out moral values.

In that debate we need to consider what are and are not appropriately treated as commodities or consumer goods, and what individual and civic rights should not be governed by the market. How we value things such as health, education, family life, nature, art, civic duties and so on are moral and political questions, not merely economic ones. The debate needs to decide whether we want a market economy or a market society.

Some politicians and economists don’t see it that way.

Their argument goes that we should not rely too heavily on altruism, generosity, solidarity or civic duty because those moral sentiments are scarce resources depleted with use. Markets or self-interest spare us from using up the limited supply of virtue. It is a specious argument. For the virtues are not commodities that are depleted with use. They are like muscle, the more they are exercised the stronger they grow.

Principles, Values, Ethics & Morals

We began this enquiry into various aspects of moral philosophy in the 18th Century thought of the philosophers of the British Enlightenment and with Adam Smith in particular, as he was both a leading figure in the British Enlightenment and the “grandfather” of modern economics.

If we accept that we need to start by clearly defining a moral philosophy to guide policy, in this case national economic policy and Maori policy then we ought to embark via public debate on an exercise to reach a consensus. The problem with politics is that there is too little moral argument. Political debate is vacant, vacuous and empty of moral content. It fails to engage the big questions that people care about.

What do we care about? Poverty? Unemployment? Inequality? Affordable housing? Equal access to higher education? How do we want to share in a common life? How do we want to live together? Is everything up for sale? Or do we have certain moral and civic goods that markets do not honour and money cannot buy? These are just a few of the questions we need to debate.

By establishing principles we are able to simplify and clarify matters in a world of competing demands, information overload, and political, corporate and media spin and propaganda. They help us to identify and weed out the bullshit in political discourse. Directly in opposition to that is the promotion of ideological political paradigms that seek merely to simplify but through the suppression of informed debate and the imposition of ignorance.

Do we think that policy should be underpinned by moral philosophy? Should we strive for a balance between altruism and self-interest? Do we believe in survival of the fittest or in the survival of those who cooperate for the common good? Should we seek to balance competition with cooperative relationships? Our principles thus established inform our choice of values, morals and ethics. Values motivate, and ethics and morals constrain.

Values are what we think important and motivate our thinking and actions. There are many competing and sometimes diametrically opposed values. That is why it is important that political parties ought to be forced by the electorate to declare their principles and values so that we can be absolutely clear what we are voting for, and so that we can hold them accountable. In the absence of clear principles and values politics and elections are little more than contests of personality and lotteries of chance. The politically informed and politically engaged know well the true principles and values of their preferred party regardless of party propaganda broadcast to the electorate. The non-engaged comprising most of the electorate are left in the dark.

Values include in no particular order – material success, individualism, efficiency, thrift, freedom, liberty, courage, hard work, prudence, competition, cooperation, patriotism, compromise, punctuality, social justice, social cohesion, social harmony, fairness, personal wealth, health, wisdom, and many others.

Once we have clarified our principles and values then ethics and morals are what guide our judgement about what is right and wrong, and our choice of policy settings.

Christianity & Religion

Christianity has played a major role in the development of a sense of morality in New Zealand in the lives of both Maori and Pakeha; in establishing shared principles, values, ethics and morals. It remains a strong influence in Maori society, not so much in the wider society. In the New Testament Mathew 22:37-40 contains the essence of this:

    “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love thy neighbour as thyself. All the Law and all the Prophets hang on these two commandments“.

Whether or not we believe in a god the second can certainly be applied to our management of the political economy.

The problem with basing economic policy on Christian values is that Christianity has long been claimed by all political ideologies and has been used as justification for behaviour both virtuous and vile. Justification for almost anything can be found in the Bible, especially the Old Testament.

Of course there are long established moral precepts in Christianity and these were incorporated into Enlightenment thinking as the sociology of virtue. The Enlightenment secularised the morality previously the sole preserve of religion.

Novelist and essayist Mario Vargas Llosa in “Notes on the Death of Culture, Essays on Spectacle and Society”, Part VI “The Opium of the People”, whilst not necessarily subscribing to a belief in God, and who describes secularism as absolutely necessary for the promotion and maintenance of democracy, nevertheless sees a very necessary role for religion in society. He writes:

    “It is still an incontrovertible reality that, for the great majority, religion is the first and main source of the moral and civic principles that buttress democratic culture.” Also. “The evisceration of spiritual life is happening in all strata of social life but it is in the economy that the effects are most visible.”
    “All the great liberal thinkers, from John Stuart Mill to Karl Popper, including Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Isaiah Berlin and Milton Friedman, argued that economic and political freedom achieved its full civilizing function, creating wealth and employment, defending individual sovereignty, the rule of law and human rights, only when the spiritual life of a society was intense and fostered a hierarchy of values respected and adhered to by that society”.
    “The great failure and the crisis that the capitalist system faces again and again – corruption, the spoils system, mercantilist manoeuvres to gain wealth by infringing the law, the frenetic greed and fraudulent activity of banks and finance houses – are not due to inherent faults in the institutions of capitalism themselves but rather to the collapse of moral and religious values, which act as a curb that keeps capitalism within certain norms of honesty, respect for one’s neighbour and respect for the law. When this invisible but influential ethical structure collapses and disappears in many areas of society, among all among those who have the most responsibility in economic life, then anarchy spreads, bringing about an increasing lack of confidence in a system that seems to function only for the benefit of the most powerful (or the biggest tricksters) and against the interests of ordinary citizens who lack wealth and privilege”.

Tikanga Maori

An underlying theme in this essay is that we have to take our argument outside of tikanga Maori, beyond the Treaty of Waitangi and into the intellectual domain of the other tikanga if we are to successfully challenge the status quo. Arguments based entirely in kaupapa Maori are self-limiting and self-marginalising.

So although it might seem that the proper place to start to define a moral philosophy for political and economic management in support of Maori policy ought to be in Tikanga Maori or Kaupapa Maori, this policy will serve all New Zealanders and ought to be based in both strands of tikanga. Which is why I have traced the influence of Tikanga Maramatanga (The Enlightenment) into New Zealand and into the thinking of Maori leadership in the first half of the 20th Century. Which is why I have discussed insights from the physical and social sciences and from moral and political philosophy. The principles, values, morals and ethics that will comprise the moral philosophy underlying economic policy and practice will need to be expressed in terms embraced by all New Zealanders.

A trap that we must avoid in Maori policy is to equate policies that privilege society, community and the common good with policies that privilege “iwi” or “corporate iwi”. For we need to know just what communities Maori do engage with on a daily and weekly basis. Do most Maori regularly engage with their iwi or is that engagement nominal only. The research has not yet been done. Iwi engagement as opposed to iwi affiliation is a matter of cultural faith rather than proven reality.

Given that most Maori are urban Maori and effectively detribalised how do they engage in the commons and in the economy? The reality is that the age old functions of tribal leadership in matters of law, security, health, education, housing, welfare and economics have all been taken by government. Maori, even the minority of Maori living in the old tribal homelands, engage with government for most of their personal and communal needs. WINZ is our primary provider. Local government provides our community services.

Which is not to say that Tikanga Maori values should not play a prominent part in the moral philosophy. These will include the principles of tika and pono and the values of whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, mana and tapu. They are of course not at odds with Aristotelian, Enlightenment and religious virtues, principles, values, morals and ethics. Mana, that which is the innate possession of all persons and that which ought to be respected in all policy might be the basis of a moral philosophy based on Tikanga Maori.

Tikanga values are the virtues in Maori culture much as Aristotelian values are the virtues in the other. “Tikanga Maori, Living by Maori Values” by Hirini Moko Mead and “Nga Pepeha a nga Tipuna” by Hirini Moko Mead and Neil Grove are probably the two primary texts to guide a moral philosophy based on Tikanga Maori.

If we base our moral philosophy on Tikanga Maori we should never assume that all Maori subscribe to the ancient communal values, for we are now a diverse people and many in the influential Maori development sector and in academia have already been converted to the ideology of liberal individualism. We need to preach to our own as well as the other.

Challenging the Status Quo

There are at least two dimensions to the study of economics, the moral and the intellectual. Indeed some of the greatest thinkers in the evolution of economics have considered that the study of the political economy is subordinate to the study of moral philosophy. This essay has been about the moral dimension.

In challenging the status quo in relation to Maori policy a challenge to the moral basis of the present economic orthodoxy that now reaches into all corners of policy and society is the first and most important challenge.

In policy in general, and in national economic policy and Maori policy in particular, the thesis of this essay is that policy should be based first and foremost on a moral philosophy, hopefully a widely shared moral philosophy. At the very least the moral basis of any policy should be clearly enunciated; transparent to all.

The corollary of this proposition is that if policy has little moral basis or no moral basis whatsoever that too should be transparent to all.

We should evaluate and judge all government policy, and hold governments to account, based on the principles, values, ethics and morals upon which policy is based (or not) rather than on the spin and propaganda deployed in the marketing of policy to the electorate; or worse still on bland assurances that the power elite knows what is best for us, or on blind or apathetic trust in our political leadership.

The assumption underlying this approach to policy is that principles, values, morals and ethics in private and in public life have not been entirely extinguished and ought to remain the bedrock of New Zealand society and culture. Or are we content to allow market values to spread into all aspects of our social and economic lives and to extinguish moral values. Do we for instance privilege market values over social justice, or the primacy of the market over the mana of the people.

These notions are drawn from the many strands of our exploration of moral philosophy. If we accept the view of morality and society extant from ancient times in tikanga and in religion, in the 18th Century sociology of virtue of Adam Smith and the British Enlightenment that informed thought in early colonial and post-colonial New Zealand, both Pakeha and Maori; and if we accept the same or similar views from the perspectives of socio-biology, socio-economics, the political philosophy of Michael Sandel and the moral philosophy of Alisdair MacIntyre, then in coming to a view of Maori policy, economics and moral philosophy we would incline towards a belief that policy ought to provide for the greater good of the greatest number including the greatest number of Maori, and that that ought to be the basis of both national economic policy and Maori policy.

For the greater good of the greatest number including the greatest number of Maori.

We might say it thus:

Unuhia te rito o te harakeke, kei hea te kōmako e kō?
Ui mai ki ahau, ‘He aha te mea nui o te Ao?’
Māku e kī atu,
‘He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.’

If you remove the central shoot of the flaxbush, where will the bellbird rest?
If you were to ask me, ‘What is the most important thing in the world?’
I would reply,
‘It is people, people, the people.’

Related Essays

Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki: The Evolution of Maori Culture
The Evolution of Pakeha Culture
The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy
The Mythology of the Whanau-Hapu-Iwi Construct
The Origins of Corporate Iwi
The Maori Economy – A Fanciful Notion
The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur
The Treaty of Waitangi Revisited
Te Ture Whenua Maori Review – Who Benefits? 
Perspectives of Time, Small Prophecy & Maori Policy
Draining the Swamp – Some Fundamentals for Maori Policy Makers
Maori Policy: Challenging the Status Quo – A Call to Reengage in the Struggle

Maori Policy: Challenging the Status Quo. A Call to Reengage in the Struggle.

And let’s take a good look at ourselves while we’re at it.

    “It behoves politicians, bureaucrats, academics, researchers and activists to become not just economically literate but economically expert if they are to challenge the status quo. This is no short term quest”.“Draining the Swamp” the previous essay in this series on Maori policy.

I wrote in that essay that becoming economically literate and building economic expertise was a necessary step towards gaining access to the levers of New Zealand’s economic policy settings. The policy settings that must be changed in order to design and implement economic policy that would benefit all Maori, not just the Pakeha elites and to a much lesser extent the Maori elites.

But that comes later I now realise.

Before that can happen the authority and control of the power elites must be challenged and broken for they control and manipulate those economic levers to suit themselves. The power elites are by definition in Aotearoa New Zealand overwhelmingly Pakeha, and male, and they will not take their hands off the levers without a struggle. In an earlier struggle it was the unions and the Labour Party that led the way. Alas, the unions are no more and the Labour Party has turned away from its founding principles and has forsaken the poor and the downtrodden.

Power elite” is a term borrowed from American author C. Wright Mills and his 1959 book “The Power Elite”. It was about the structure of power in the United States focusing on the military, corporate and political elites and their control over the supposedly democratic processes of government. The idea in contemporary times is often expressed as the “deep state”, the “permanent government” or the “shadow government” and although a topic of serious research and commentary it is often adopted by conspiracy theorists. As a concept of power relationships however “power elite” fits the New Zealand context, certainly since the neo-liberal revolution of the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Power is the root of the long struggle we now politely label “Maori development”. The relationship between Maori and Pakeha, between Maori and government, has always been a relationship of unequal power and our struggle to regain lost power. We call it rangatiratanga.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s the late Bruce Jesson chronicled the rise of a new power elite in New Zealand; a power elite he described as the “New Right” and the “Libertarian Right”. The actors in that power elite were drawn from politics, the economic bureaucracy, corporations and academia. See “Pakeha Networks” in the September 1988 edition of “Te Putatara”. That 1988 analysis was drawn from Bruce Jesson’s “Behind the Mirror Glass” (Penguin, 1987).

In his posthumously published “Only Their Purpose is Mad, The Money Men Take Over NZ” (Dunmore, 1999) he described how the power elite, particularly the finance sector, had taken over the country. See here for a review. His analysis was prescient as nine years later in 2008 the finance sector had taken over the global economy and brought it to its knees.

Nowadays no-one seems to be keeping tabs on the elites but in the sixteen years since that last Jesson book a new generation of actors has joined the power elite, and their neo-liberal agenda has been firmly embedded as political and economic orthodoxy; the new status quo. A key aim of that agenda is to entrench itself so deeply that no future government will be able to reverse it. It has worked so far.

The four wings of the power elite are:

  • political;
  • bureaucratic;
  • security, intelligence and law enforcement; and
  • corporate.

The political wing of the neo-liberal power elite is today is led by John Key, Bill English, Stephen Joyce, Gerry Brownlee and the fast rising Paula Bennett. Judith Collins is the cheerleader for the extreme right of the power elite. Prior to them the political wing was pretty much dominated by Helen Clark, Heather Simpson and Michael Cullen. The underlying neo-liberal agenda was the same in both cases. Although on the surface and according to its propaganda Labour policies might have seemed somewhat progressive at a microeconomic level, at the macroeconomic level nothing had changed from previous governments. Indeed the Labour Party of today sits on the neo-liberal right of Robert Muldoon’s National Party of the early 1980’s.

Since 1984 the different shades of politician have cycled and recycled through government but the macroeconomic agenda has remained constant. Little change can be expected if Labour manages to unseat National again.

The powerful bureaucrats in the control ministries and the economic ministries remain in place throughout, totally committed to defending their neo-liberal agenda. They are from Prime Minister and Cabinet, State Services Commission, Treasury, the Reserve Bank, Ministry of Business Innovation and Enterprise, Ministry of Primary Industry and others. A formidable force they are in a very real sense a permanent government and defenders of the status quo.

The security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have gained more and more power from gullible and compliant parliaments since 2002 and are part of the power elite. Their agenda is not primarily economic although the intelligence agencies do gather economic intelligence. They do however serve to reinforce the dominance of the power elite through ever increasing controls over the population. The NZ Police in particular over recent years have demonstrated their disposition to silence democratic dissent; to indulge in political intelligence and surveillance, in heavy handed suppression of protest and demonstration, and unlawful investigation in the service of the power elite.

Corporations are deeply embedded in the power elite with ready access to political and bureaucratic policy makers. They and those they serve are perhaps the main beneficiaries of the present political and economic paradigm. The access of Time Warner (Peter Jackson), Sky City and MediaWorks to this government are publicly revealed examples.

The most glaring example of access to and exercise of power was in the negotiations towards the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). In those negotiations politicians, bureaucrats and influential corporates acted together in secret on behalf of the people of Aotearoa New Zealand who were, with most of their elected representatives, totally excluded. The TPP negotiations were a blatant exercise of power by the elected and unelected elites acting together for their mutual benefit. Corporates from across all TPP countries actually wrote much of the agreement.

In Aotearoa New Zealand corporate membership of the power elite now includes the finance sector, energy, media, transport, telecommunications, the primary industries and others. Prior to 1984 large parts of those industries were publicly owned and controlled. Privatisation has meant much more than passing of ownership from public to private hands. It has resulted in those private hands now being part of the power elite; the ones in control of our lives. The neo-liberal agenda of the 1980s and 1990s was not just about economics and business and the transfer of capital; it was about a massive transfer of power from the people and their elected representatives to the unelected.

The main corporate umbrella is The New Zealand Initiative formed in 2012 from a merger of The New Zealand Business Roundtable and the New Zealand Institute. It is a neo-liberal think tank and membership organisation with about forty corporate members listed in its website which states:

    “Our members come from various backgrounds and represent the New Zealand economy in all its diversity”.

Which can only be so if you believe that those New Zealand businesses represent the New Zealand economy, which also quite surprisingly comprises about 4.5 million individuals, their civil society organisations, thousands of small and medium size businesses, as well as the forty or so business members of the NZ Institute and however many individual members they have. They actually represent the big end of New Zealand business.

It further states:

    “Together the members of the NZ Institute form a network of high profile individuals and firms united by their passion for good public policy”.

Good public policy” meaning of course what is good for big business and what is good for the power elite. Unless of course you really believe that what is good for them is good for everyone, all 4.5 million of us. The statistics put the lie to that.

Max Rashbrooke’s recent book “Wealth in New Zealand” (Bridget Williams Books, 2015) contains statistics that show just who benefits from this concentration of power in the hands of the few:

  • The wealthiest 1% of New Zealanders own 18.1% of the nation’s wealth;
  • The wealthiest 5% own 39.4%;
  • The wealthiest 10% own 53.5%;
  • The wealthiest 50% own 96.1%; and
  • The next 50% own under 4% of the nation’s wealth. Among them are the disenfranchised and the “disinherited ones to whom neither the past nor the future belongs”.

Ethnic statistics show that:

  • Pakeha (71% of the population) own 85% of the nation’s wealth;
  • Asians (10%) own 7%;
  • Maori (12%) own 5%; and
  • Pasifika (5%) own 1% of the nation’s wealth.

Those figures combined with the statistics in a previous essay “The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy” graphically illustrate that inequality and poverty are now accepted and quietly promoted by the power elite as the new status quo. It is a status quo that must be challenged and broken if Maori policy is to have any chance of bringing hope and dignity to most if not all Maori people; and to all of those who are the disenfranchised and the disinherited. The discarded.

Policy that would matter to the disenfranchised and disinherited never makes it onto the policy agenda. Poverty and inequality are dirty words. Policy that would matter is rarely if ever seriously discussed and debated in the halls of power. Politics and policy formation in this day and age are about mindless rhetoric, about avoiding the challenge of ideas, dumbing down policy debate, about discouraging the disenfranchised and disinherited from any engagement in the political process, and pushing through the agenda of the power elite in the guise of economic policy. In neo-liberal LalaLand the disenfranchised and disinherited are blamed for their own plight.

Policy that would matter to the disenfranchised and disinherited would be about people not just property and profit, about the dignity that all citizens are entitled to in a democratic society, and about the representation of their interests in the democratic process. About the mana of the people. But we are moving away from democracy and towards plutocracy; rule for the wealthy by the wealthy and those who serve them. The statistics in this case do not lie. We are becoming a plutocracy disguised in democratic form.

How can that status quo be challenged and reversed? It will not be without struggle. Who is up for the struggle? I fear that we are not up for it.

Kohanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa, iwi radio, Maori television, Maori health provision, Maori fisheries, the return of lands, Treaty settlements, corporate iwi, and much more besides; all of that was gained through struggle. It was gained through the activism of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and it did not come lightly. It was gained on the streets and in the courts. Many were arrested, some imprisoned for their activism. Many more put their own futures on the line. That activism built to such a crescendo that governments had to concede lest their imaginary “we are one people” pleasant and harmonious New Zealand society collapsed around them. Fear drove them to seek to co-opt us rather than to continue to ignore, suppress or even oppress.

They masked those political concessions as altruism and goodwill and bought us off. It was good politics. They bought our compliance and over time co-opted us to their neo-liberal agenda. They seem to have convinced us that the limited wealth they have transferred into a few Maori hands will eventually trickle down to the many. It hasn’t and it won’t.

It was the activists who made all of the gains possible and forced open the doors. Both Maori activists and conservative Maori walked through those doors and created the many initiatives, projects, programmes and organisations of the “Maori Renaissance”. Then in a short timeframe the activists were pushed aside and the conservatives took over governance and management of almost all of the new Maori development sector. But the original kaupapa of raising living conditions, reversing all of the negative social and economic indicators, and creating a measure of prosperity for all Maori had not been achieved. We were blinded by limited concessions and successes after decades of struggle.

And we gave up the struggle. We focused on the money, or fish, and how we would share it out, or not. The decade long battle over the capture and allocation of fishing assets illustrates just how we became totally diverted from the original kaupapa. We squabbled over the gold cast across our pathway. In fisheries and in other settlements we spent all our time and energy staking our claims at the Waitangi Tribunal, and afterwards turning ourselves into mandated recipients of the limited gains. It became the Grand Diversion. The government of the day even put a price on it – one billion dollars. But what of its value?

We have not achieved the aims of the long struggle but we seem to have convinced ourselves that we have. The present generation, the Maori elites who have taken over governance and management in the Maori development sector, are interested only in the benefits they accrue from the struggle of the previous generation. They seem to have convinced themselves that their management of those billions of dollars’ worth of communal Maori assets will do the job for all Maori; that the struggle is over. They have been co-opted to the neo-liberal agenda of the power elite. Some of them are delusional in their aspiration to become part of that power elite.

Not all of them of course. In my own many hapu from Heretaunga to Wairarapa and Te Tau Ihu dedicated people have laboured away for decades on behalf of all of us and we are now starting to gain mostly monetary settlements for past injustices. They are good people working on behalf of the hapu. It is no reflection on them or their mahi but the gains are really just a pittance.

The struggle is not over. Whilst a few benefit from those limited gains the people are still the disenfranchised and disinherited; the discarded of the neo-liberal agenda. Yet we have given up the struggle. And I don’t see a new generation of activists waiting in the wings. At this time the main political cause is the intent of the Maori elites to reframe Maori land legislation in the hope of creating more wealth in the Maori development sector. Whether or not it is justified, the fear of the many is that through new land legislation the Maori elites will disinherit their own; the already disenfranchised and disinherited.

We have lost our way.

In part however that was the result of faulty conceptualisation and design in the initiatives and programmes that theoretically aimed to reduce the social and economic disparities between Maori and Pakeha.

One of the main aims of the early activism was the revival of cultural identity and language. That resulted in successful Te Reo Maori educational and broadcasting initiatives but not a longer term widespread use of Te Reo and not, as many of its promoters thought, in the general lifting of Maori aspirations leading to a reversal of negative social and economic statistics. As a cultural identity initiative it has been moderately successful. It has not however led to overall social and economic success.

Hui Taumata 1984 (Maori Economic Summit) resulted in a primary focus in the Maori development sphere on economic development. However “economic development” then became narrowly defined as Maori business development rather than overall improvement of the economic status of all Maori. It shared with the neo-liberal agenda the belief and rhetoric of the now discredited “trickle down” theory. That narrow focus has resulted in a growing Maori business sector within a new Maori development sector of the New Zealand economy but not in any appreciable improvement in the social and economic status of Maori in general. It also resulted in the notion of the mythical “Maori Economy” and in the belief that the “Maori Economy” would trickle down and deliver for all Maori.

The Maori Party’s later “Whanau Ora” social development programme is aimed as its name suggests at working with individual whanau in need and not at dramatically changing the total social and economic environment in which those whanau struggle for survival. As I wrote in “Draining the Swamp” it aims to rescue a few whanau from the swamp rather than to drain the swamp. Within its narrow terms of reference “Whanau Ora” is not doomed to failure; neither will it be successful in achieving the aspirations of its programme designers.

Whether by design or happenstance or both we have lost our way.

Not entirely of course. The Mana Party tried to reengage in the struggle but a combination of tired old rhetoric from a collection of tired old minds, incredibly lousy strategy and poor leadership all but wiped them out at the last elections.

In a parallel domain, in academia, we have also lost much of the intellectual impetus behind Maori development policy and practice. Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s most Maori academics were actively involved in the struggle, some at the forefront of protest and demonstration. Indeed much of the activism was launched from within the universities with students and the newly graduated at the barricades. Almost all were politically engaged in challenging the status quo. Senior Maori scholars including Ranginui Walker, Patu Hohepa, Ngapare Hopa, Robert Mahuta, Tipene O’Regan, Hirini Mead, Api Mahuika, Katerina Mataira, Whatarangi Winiata and others provided intellectual frameworks and direction and were themselves actively involved.

The next generation of scholars were equally engaged and led by Graham and Linda Smith developed and entrenched a Maori specific domain within the universities across a number of disciplines, notably in education, perhaps the most important site of struggle within and beyond the university. Their “Kaupapa Maori” intellectual framework now informs most Maori specific scholarship. Wally Penetito also led the way in Maori education. Mason Durie developed intellectual frameworks across a number of areas notably in Maori health and Maori education. There are many others.

The next generation of Maori academics seems to be disengaged from the political process which is the only avenue to serious reduction of the poverty and inequality that afflict too many of our people. There are some who are active in the Maori Party but the Maori Party, despite its good intentions, serves only to legitimise the neoliberal agenda of the power elite in relation to Maori issues. The Maori Party is our only Maori party and it should lead the political struggle. But it expends its considerable Maori Development budget on standing still.

That $244 million serves mainly to buy its political support for another year. It maintains the status quo and doesn’t move us forward in any appreciable way.

The 2015 budget allocation for Vote Maori Development was about $244 million. $54 million of that was for the Whanau Ora programme, $82 million for the promotion of language and culture and $33 million to pay for the Maori development bureaucracy leaving about $75 million spread across a range of social and economic programmes. That and similar budget allocations throughout the seven years of the Maori Party’s alliance with the National Party has done little if anything to reduce Maori poverty and the unequal place of Maori in New Zealand society.

One would expect those academics involved in the Maori Party to develop new intellectual frameworks and strategies; to try something different. However it seems that the Maori Party is tied to the tired old policies and programmes that haven’t delivered and has no new ideas despite the evidence that new ideas are desperately needed. Not just new versions of old programmes.

“Ka pu te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi”

The Maori Party needs to seriously engage with academia and with the creatives. It needs to pull in some intellectual and creative heft and to reinvent itself.

There is also some evidence that Maori academics are increasingly disengaged not only from politics but also from their Maori communities. Some have become what Graham Smith has called “privatised academics”, engaged in scholarship for their own benefit rather than the benefit of Maori communities and Maori in general. Some co-opt the “struggle” to enhance their own mana. They talk about the wellbeing of the people but don’t walk the talk.

Has academia abdicated its Maori development leadership role? Perhaps the unintended consequence of success in creating a Maori specific space in the universities has been an increasingly inward focus by Maori academia.

There are of course many academics working in their own tribal communities. However most Maori are urbanised and detribalised. Who is advocating for them at a pan tribal and national level?

Perhaps a shift in the leadership of Maori development away from its intellectual platform in the universities and whare wananga towards the Maori business sector, corporate iwi and “iwi leaders”, towards bureaucracy and conservative governance and management, was causal in narrowing the intellectual capacity, the focus and direction of Maori development, and ultimately in sending us in the wrong direction.

It may be that the universities and whare wananga need to reset the compass and to reclaim Maori development leadership from “corporate iwi” and “iwi leaders” who are by definition motivated by a form of self-interest, albeit in the name of “iwi”. We are in need of a much broader and deeper perspective, a perspective that acknowledges modern realities rather than neo-tribal nostalgia.

Maori academia would begin by becoming deeply reengaged in the political process.

All of this is indicative of a failure of strategy, a failure to keep our gaze on the far horizon, becoming focused instead on near term gains. The great samurai strategist Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) in “The Book of Five Rings” put it this way:

    “The gaze should be large and broad. This is the twofold gaze “Perception and Sight”. Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things”.

It is the role of the intellectual and the strategist to promote perception, to maintain our gaze on the far horizon, to keep the distant things close. We need a new generation of Maori public intellectuals, learned across a range of disciplines in both humanities and sciences, advocating for all Maori. But they need to bring new ideas into the public domain. The old ones have been around far too long.

In his 1967 essay “A Call to Celebration” (published in “Celebration of Awareness: A Call for Institutional Revolution”, Marion Boyars, London, 1971) the late Ivan Illich expressed this hope for the future of mankind:

    “I and many others, known and unknown to me, call upon you:

    • to celebrate our joint power to provide all human beings with the food, clothing, shelter they need to delight in living;
    • to discover, together with us what we must do to use mankind’s power to create the humanity, the dignity, and the joyfulness of each one of us”.

And this:

    “We are challenged to break the obsolete social and economic systems which divide our world between the overprivileged and the underprivileged. All of us whether government leader or protester, businessman or worker, professor or student share a common guilt. We have failed to discover how the necessary changes in our ideals and social structures can be made. Each of us therefore through our ineffectiveness and our lack of responsible awareness, causes the suffering around the world”.

    “The call is to live the future. Let us join together joyfully to celebrate our awareness that we can make our life today the shape of tomorrow’s future”.

Ivan Illich was one of the main intellectual influences in the work of Professor Ranginui Walker. Ranginui was and is the preeminent analyst of our own need for institutional revolution. His 1990 book “Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou” was subtitled “Struggle Without End“. In it Ranginui related the story of the long struggle from the very beginning up to 1990. He needs to be read again to remind ourselves of just what we were struggling for. In the Introduction he wrote:

    “As portended by the freedom fighters at Orakau that the struggle against an unjust social order would go on forever, the urban Maori have taken up where their forbears left off. This book is about the endless struggle of the Maori for social justice, equality and self-determination, whereby two people can live as coequals in the post-colonial era of the new nation state in the twenty-first century”.

Have we just taken a break or have we brought the struggle to a premature end?

Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou

The call then is for each of us personally, in our search for direction, policy and action that benefits all Maori, to admit our common guilt in wilfully falling short of the aims of the so called Maori Renaissance; in wilfully being distracted by the glint of gold. And to commit again to the struggle to challenge the status quo and to break the political, social and economic paradigm that consigns so many of our people to the serried ranks of the disenfranchised and disinherited.

Are we up for it?

Next Essay

He Tangata: Maori Policy, Economics and Moral Philosophy – The Moral Challenge to the Status Quo and to Neo-liberal Theology

Related Essays

Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki: The Evolution of Maori Culture
The Evolution of Pakeha Culture
The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy
The Mythology of the Whanau-Hapu-Iwi Construct
The Origins of Corporate Iwi
The Maori Economy – A Fanciful Notion
The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur
The Treaty of Waitangi Revisited
Te Ture Whenua Maori Review – Who Benefits? 
Perspectives of Time, Small Prophecy & Maori Policy
Draining the Swamp – Some Fundamentals for Maori Policy Makers

Draining the Swamp – Some Fundamentals for Maori Policy Makers

In previous posts I have been looking at Maori policy and have come to a few conclusions about past and present policy, primarily;

  1. Channelling policy initiatives through neo-tribal organisations or corporate iwi has not and will not address the development or advancement needs of most Maori;
  2. Such policy most benefits the Maori elites rather than Maori most in need;
  3. A focus on the Treaty of Waitangi and on cultural and language retention and revitalisation, whilst a beneficial policy for Maori, has not and will not address the real social and economic advancement needs of MOST Maori.

I am yet to be persuaded about the present Whanau Ora initiative. It seems to me to be an “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” policy focused on helping whanau to cope with life at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, perhaps giving false hope that they might be able to climb out of where they are, rather than dealing to the complete environment and to the societal and economic reasons why they are trapped at the bottom of the heap.

If that is so what then should be the focus of Maori policy.

  1. It should focus on the social and economic advancement of all Maori wherever they are and where they are, in relatively large numbers at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, and mainly in the cities rather in than the rural homelands which are the domain of most corporate iwi,
  2. It should prioritise the needs of those Maori MOST IN NEED and should DIRECTLY address those needs;
  3. It should address causes of disadvantage rather than symptoms or effects.

Statistics that form the narrative of Maori disadvantage have been used as the basis of Maori policy for decades beginning in my living memory in 1961 with the Hunn Report on the Department of Maori Affairs. Perhaps the main consequence of that report was a rapid rise in migration of Maori to the cities. In the last thirty years that same but evolving narrative has underpinned a bewildering succession of reports and policies. Te Putatara has a somewhat different perspective and statistical narrative (see here). The telling and retelling of the statistical narrative by the policy makers has rarely resulted in policies that meet the above criteria.

There are perhaps three reasons why that is so:

Firstly, once the narrative has been retold in the form of yet another report policy purportedly designed to address the identified needs has actually been designed to conform to prevailing beliefs and ideology rather than real need. The belief in the relevance of iwi, based on the false post-colonial whanau-hapu-iwi construct, has dominated since the 1980s and has resulted in the formation of corporate iwi and in their capture of resources, and the present dominance of “Iwi Leaders” in matters of Maori policy. A belief in a neoliberal “trickle down” theory of economic policy has resulted in the present focus on Maori business grandiosely described as the Maori economy, and despite the telling and retelling of the success of this mythical “Maori economy” little movement can be seen at the bottom of the heap.

The retention and revitalisation of language and culture was a powerful pou whakapono that brought with it many policies notably in education and broadcasting. Those policies were believed by many of their ardent proponents to be the key that would unlock the social and economic barriers to Maori social and economic advancement. It has not been so. Having said that I do not quibble with the desirability of cultural and language retention. I do however question it as a policy designed to address the social and economic advancement of those most in need. An intellectual justification can be found in the argument that identity and self-esteem should be enhanced through cultural and language revival and that may lead to greater success in climbing out of socio-economic disparity. But the statistical record says that that is no more than theory.

The Treaty of Waitangi was another powerful pou whakapono used to drive the so-called Maori Renaissance and to justify much policy but of and in itself has delivered little to those most in need and much to the elites who control Maori resources.

A great deal of Maori policy has therefore delivered the ideology and has not dealt to needs.

Secondly, using poverty as an example, policy seems not to take into account the phenomenon of reproductive replacement.  For instance every person or whanau that is moved out of poverty into the middle class, whether by their own efforts or with help from community or state, is replaced by those who are born into poverty (or other disparity). Policy designed to move people out of poverty must aim to do so faster than the birth or replacement rate. To do otherwise is to accept that no matter how many are rescued from poverty the number of poor will nevertheless continue to increase.

The lesson is that framing policies aimed at individuals or their whanau rather than at the whole problem of poverty will be self-defeating except in the case of fortunate individuals or individual whanau.

Thirdly, policies that would address the real needs of those most in need are too hard, beyond the purview of Maori policy makers, and beyond their ability to deliver policy that would work. And that is because those policies that would work would focus almost entirely on broad national social and economic ideology and policy rather than just on Maori. National social and economic policy is itself driven by prevailing ideologies, at the moment a political and somewhat corrupted version of neoliberal economics. Ministers of Maori Affairs or Maori Development do not have their hands on the social and economic levers of power and are therefore powerless to make a real difference, even if they knew how.

What they and their policy advisors then do is to focus on what they can do within Vote Maori and that is invariably guided by their own ideology and by the prevailing ideology of the Maori elites and so the circle is complete and we are back where we started.

The levers of power that if pulled in the right direction would deliver real social and economic advancement to those Maori most in need are the economic levers held closely by the small group of cabinet ministers in the inner sanctum, whatever their political hue. For at least three decades social policy that might address the real needs of most Maori has been subservient to questionable economic policy. Only when economic policy is designed to serve society and social policy will those needs be addressed, not just for Maori but for all those in need. At the moment policy first addresses the interests of the elites, whether Maori or Pakeha.

The landscape over which this policy saga plays out stretches from the low lying swamp in which the least well off survive, to the distant mountain and the clear air where the rich have their palatial homes. In between the two are the lowland plains where most New Zealanders live and the foothills of increasing height that are the domain of the better off. In the highest of these foothills is the castle called Parliament which houses the levers of power over this whole landscape. It also houses those who have their hands on those levers and are the lords of the landscape but who are by choice (i.e. ideology) also the servants of the mountain dwellers. A few of them are themselves mountain dwellers.

The swamp is where disease is most prevalent; diseases of both body and mind and the diseases of society including chronic poverty and unemployment. There are alligators in the swamp in the form of drugs and alcohol, crime and violence. The alligators not only devour many of the swamp dwellers, they also serve to corral them inside the swamp. On the banks of the swamp are the tents of the well-meaning including the Whanau Ora tent, It is from these tents that intrepid community and social workers, health workers and educators, both state and volunteer, venture into the swamp to work with the swamp dwellers to try to alleviate the condition of their lives and hopefully to bring some individuals and whanau out of the swamp onto the plains.

The statistical evidence clearly indicates that they are fighting a losing battle.

An engineer would approach the challenge of the swamp in an entirely different way. The engineer would drain the swamp and convert it into fertile ground, an extension of the plains.

The lords of the landscape and their mountain dwelling puppet-masters have absolutely no interest in diverting resources to the engineers to apply their expertise to the challenge. Over the last thirty years the resources have been moving in exactly the opposite direction, from the swamp and the plains into the foothills and up the mountain. That has been despite thirty years of assurances that the more resources the mountain dwellers acquire the more will trickle down to the plains and the swamp. Money it seems does not behave at all like the water that falls on the mountain and eventually forms the swamp. The mountain dwellers know that and do whatever it takes to preserve the status quo and the lords of the landscape remain blinded by perverse ideology to the dominant agenda of the mountain folk.

The hill dwellers also benefit from this reverse flow of resources. And it is in these hills that the Maori elites dwell, some of them on the hill they have named the Maori Economy. Somewhat amazingly some on that hill maintain that they too live in the swamp alongside their less fortunate whanaunga.

The challenge for Maori policy makers is first of all to free themselves from the ideology of the Maori elites and then to obtain and divert sufficient resources to the engineers. To do that Maori have to storm the castle called Parliament and get their hands on the levers of power. Maori have actually been storming that castle for decades now and have established footholds on the ramparts. Indeed the Maori Party has accepted an invitation to climb down from the ramparts to dine at the long table in the great dining hall. There they feast with the lords of the landscape and send doggy bags of goodies to the Maori elites and crumbs to the plains and swamp dwellers.

But they still do not have their hands on the levers of power for those are safe within the inner sanctum or citadel. They talk of having to sit at the table before anything can be achieved. They try to convince themselves and the rest of us that the great dining hall is the citadel. But it isn’t. That’s deep inside the castle and has its own moat and drawbridge. The Maori Party have been given the keys to the house but not the combination to the safe.

How then do Maori get their hands on the levers in the safe; in the citadel. The bald reality is that Maori cannot do it alone. The swamp is home to Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha and the draining of the swamp will be a joint undertaking. The storming of the citadel will also need to be a joint campaign which will require a broad political coalition of Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha with the singular intent of draining the swamp through making economic policy serve the needs of society rather than the reverse.

So much for the metaphor of the swamp, the plains, the foothills, the mountain, the castle, and the citadel. Almost.

The storming of the citadel is not a narrow Maori policy matter. It is a matter of broad social and economic policy which are areas largely ignored by Maori policy makers including Maori politicians, cabinet ministers, their advisors, Maori academics and researchers. It follows then that what is urgently needed in Maori policy is to refocus from the present narrow scope of policy deliberation onto broad social and economic policy. And economic expertise in Maori policy making is the single greatest deficiency preventing that.

The rationale for draining the swamp cannot be developed without it. It behoves politicians, bureaucrats, academics, researchers and activists to become not just economically literate but economically expert if they are to challenge the status quo. This is no short term quest.

There are those on the “Left” who are advocating a coalition of the Labour, Green, Internet and Mana Parties to defeat the Key-led Government in the coming elections who might interpret this article as support for that notion. You’re dreaming. “Te Putatara” doesn’t support any political party. And in any case there is no-one with economic literacy or expertise in the Mana Party, none visible in the Internet Party, perhaps one person in the Green Party and certainly none in the parliamentary Labour Party. So you’re dreaming anyway. Even if you do pull it off you’ll need more than ideological intent to defeat the entrenched economic ideology in the Treasury, Reserve Bank and many other government agencies, you’ll need real economic expertise. You don’t have it. Mind you nor does the parliamentary National Party but they don’t need it. They’ve got Treasury pulling their strings, as Treasury has done ever since it subverted and captured the Lange/Douglas Labour Government in 1984. You’ll need to capture Treasury as well.

In the next post I will explore what economic literacy and expertise looks like.

Related Essays

Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki: The Evolution of Maori Culture
The Evolution of Pakeha Culture
The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy
The Mythology of the Whanau-Hapu-Iwi Construct
The Origins of Corporate Iwi
The Maori Economy – A Fanciful Notion
The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur
The Treaty of Waitangi Revisited
Te Ture Whenua Maori Review – Who Benefits? 
Perspectives of Time, Small Prophecy & Maori Policy

Perspectives of time, small prophecy, and Maori policy

Whimsical ruminations and ramblings of an unbeliever in which there might be a sliver of truth, or might not depending on your time perspective and ideological mindset.

Our time perspective is a learned state of mind. It is one of the most influential and least recognized factors in the psychology and lives of all of us.

“Ka mura, ka muri”

Walking backwards into the future” was a perception of time common in many cultures before the onset of the modern era and with it our raging addiction to discovery, progress, and relentless and rapid change. The ancient Egyptians feared and hated change. It was the great obsession that they held to for three thousand years trying to stop time by avoiding change. Fundamentalist religion is equally devoted to staving off the future. I know Maori, some highly educated, who fiercely try to hold off change and to live in the past, albeit an imagined nostalgic and romantic past.

To resist living in one’s own time, to attempt to live in an imaginary past, is human in the same way that being neurotic is human.” – American scholar Edward Mendelson.

Apprehension about the future is still common in the present era but unlike the Egyptians of old we can no longer hold it at bay. However we still tend to cling to the past, or to a romantic and nostalgic version of it for we are much more kindly disposed to the past than to the future. To many or perhaps most people the past is a safe and comforting retreat from the uncertainty of the future.

But the future, however uncertain or even threatening, is the inexorable and inevitable continuation of the past. See Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki”.

There are those who live entirely in the past and everything in the present is viewed through the lens of the past, whether real, re-imagined or reconstructed, mostly re-imagined and reconstructed, for that is how the human mind remembers the past. The past is invariably re-made to serve the perceived needs of the present. Much Maori policy is built from within this viewpoint. Whether or not the past is viewed from a positive or negative perspective will greatly influence the life being lived. It will also influence Maori policy for there are positives as well as negatives in our post-settlement history and to dwell upon the one at the expense of the other is to cast policy into grievance or victim mode.

Then there are those who live only in the present with little or no perception of the past or regard for the future, or for the consequences of present day choices. Those who are drug or substance addicted, gambling addicted and food addicted, are extreme examples. Hedonists living only for the pleasures of the present are another example, usually in adolescence or early adulthood, but often persisting into maturity. Fatalists are those who believe that their lives are controlled entirely by forces they cannot influence such as religion or other beliefs about predestination. Fatalists can also be those who adopt the mantle of victimhood and believe that there is nothing they can do to raise themselves out of their present state, perhaps even that the whole of society is conspiring against them. They live entirely in the present.

There are degrees of present time focus. It is short term thinking and Maori policy interventions are often the result of this type of thinking.

Socio economic status is closely related to time perspective. Those on the lowest income levels and those with higher school dropout rates are more likely to be present oriented. Their time perspective may be a result of their station in life but their station in life may also be attributable in some degree to time perspective; to their psychology. Those who are able to lift themselves out of the lower socio economic group are invariably future focused.

Research indicates that those who are future oriented adults exhibit some of the following:

  • Live in a temperate zone;
  • Live in a stable family, society and nation;
  • If religious are protestant or Jewish;
  • Are educated;
  • Are young or middle-aged adults;
  • Have a job;
  • Use technology regularly;
  • Are successful;
  • Have future-oriented role models; and
  • Are recovering from childhood illness.

However, most future oriented people also tend to view the future through the lens of either the past or the present, or both. In fact most people tend to live in an immediate past and do not even see the present as it really is. In this rapidly changing modern world most people do not keep up with what is happening around them, or what is happening in the wider world. Important scientific discoveries for instance are unknown to most people for decades even though the knowledge and perspectives gained from those discoveries will change forever our understanding of the world and our own lives. We do not keep up with change and therefore consign ourselves to living life in an immediate past rather than the actual present.

In the main it is not a harmful perspective. Except in the case of the frog in the pot of water being slowly raised to boiling point without taking notice.

Academics and policy researchers are not immune to the frog in the pot phenomenon. Academics tend to construct their lifelong professional perspectives early in their careers through their undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate research, and through their interpretation of that research in theses. If they further their research and studies it is usually built upon the conclusions of their initial research rather than upon new interpretations of old knowledge in the light of new evidence, or new knowledge as a result of new research. Their teaching careers are almost always built upon their early studies and qualification. Academics like most people from all walks of life rarely re-evaluate their beliefs and change their worldviews in the light of new evidence. Few even seek out new evidence that might result in changed beliefs and worldviews.

Thus it is in the academy that old knowledge and old ideas are passed on from old minds to new minds. Some of those students become policy makers. Thus it is that the past is perpetuated.

Outside of academia people rarely discard the core beliefs and worldviews they adopt in childhood and adolescence, whether from their churches, their families or from their peer groups. Outside their own academic disciplines academics also retain the core beliefs and worldviews of their childhood and adolescence. So in that sense most of us are living within a time perspective framed in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, depending on our level of education both formal and informal, and subsequent experience. Even though we may be future oriented that future is seen through the lens of our perception of past or present.

It is said in the Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism:

“We see things not as they are but as we are”

The ancients, without the benefit of the modern science of cognitive psychology, understood the human mind and its propensity to see the world as a reflection of itself and to build the narratives it wants to believe. We in the modern world still see the world as we are, not as it is, and there are many factors that influence how we are and how we see things, our time perspective being one of the most influential and least recognised.

What has all that got to do with prophecy?

Prophecy is not necessarily the ability to see into the future. Most often it just involves describing the present that others don’t see or don’t yet see. To them it seems like foretelling of the future. It has to do with perceptions of time. I describe this as small prophecy as opposed to the grand prophecy of soothsayers and matakite, the perception of that which is beyond perception.

Small prophecy is the ability to set aside one’s own time perspective, beliefs and worldviews, to search out and discover what is actually happening in the present, and then to describe it. Small prophecy is seeing the present. Grand prophecy is seeing the future.

The previous essay “The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy” was a small essay into small prophecy, describing the condition and status and worldviews of Maori as they are in the present.

The maker of small prophecy, the seer of the present, must also be prepared to change beliefs, worldviews and perspectives in the light of new evidence. Changing one’s beliefs even in the face of the most compelling evidence is one of the hardest things for a person to do, after public speaking and accepting the inevitability of death. Given that most people are not fully aware of the present, and may not become aware of present reality for years, or decades, if ever, the act of describing the present is an act of prophecy. For most people it is a distant reality in their own knowledge and understanding for even if they hear it or read it they may not actually perceive it until sometime in the future.

For those who lives are framed entirely in the past perspective any telling of the actual present is beyond belief. Politicians and the ideologically fixated as a class seem to be drawn in disproportionate numbers from the inhabitants of an imagined past.

The work of academics and policy makers informs Maori policy. Although future oriented much of it is built upon past perspective or upon a present perspective that is out of synch with present reality.

Layered upon that is the political governance of ministers of the Crown who drive the direction of policy which is invariably ideological and based in the beliefs, worldviews and perspectives of the politician, formed in his or her childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, hopelessly out of synch with present reality and future needs.

To state the obvious, policy is therefore inexact and unlikely to provide direction to meet long term needs, or even short to medium term needs. That applies as much to economic policy, health, welfare, education, foreign affairs, defence and national security policy as it does to Maori policy. As nations we seem to muddle through. Governments change but policy direction does not change dramatically despite the initial flurry of post-election policy activity before policy inertia sets in again. Policy might not achieve much that is useful but it can and does hinder the beneficial evolution of our individual and collective lives and livelihoods.

That can be a somewhat pessimistic outlook on life. The engaged optimist therefore either ignores the reality of policy inexactitude and prejudice and simply believes for believing is much easier and more comforting than thinking; or being an ideological unbeliever seeks solace in a better future by indulging in small prophecy about what really is and what might be, guarding against the innate human tendency to wishful thinking and ever mindful and accepting that no one is listening.

Most people aren’t engaged and simply don’t care. Most people follow the sports news or the celebrity news rather than political news and remain happily ignorant of policy until it affects them personally. It is probably the most sensible if somewhat fatalistic approach.

Every now and then, in the modern timeframe about every thirty to fifty years, there is a policy jolt and we are forced by circumstance to catch up on decades of time denial and policy lethargy. The optimist of small prophecy is partially vindicated as prophecy belatedly becomes reality. There is an “I told you so” moment. But even then policy makers and legislators invariably misread the signs in the goat’s entrails and send us off into yet another policy time warp in which a version of the past is mistaken for the present and the future is divined through a combination of ideological day dreaming and wishful thinking.

One would think that it would be an easy matter for law makers and policy advisors to understand all of this and to sit down and rationally and logically discern the actual present as opposed to an adolescent, idealistic or ideological version of the past substituting as the present. To engage in small prophecy and at least to devise policy for the actual present.

Were that the case in Maori policy we would not:

  • Aim policy at the needs and aspirations of the Maori elites who in reality are not in need of policy assistance;
  • Pursue language and cultural revival as a substitute for overall Maori advancement; and
  • Focus on the development of corporate iwi and on business development as a substitute for overall Maori economic development.

We would:

  • Focus instead on the real needs of most Maori people, especially the poor and struggling;
  • Let the elites look after themselves; and
  • Be specific about the aims of policies of language and cultural revival, and corporate iwi and business development, instead of cloaking them in the mantle of “Maori development”.

It is I know a giant and impossible step from there to devise policy that recognizes the multiple possibilities of an uncertain future flexible enough to adapt as required. Unfortunately ideology is diametrically opposed to recognition of multiple uncertain futures and to flexibility of both mind and policy. But we could just focus on the actual present; on the evidence before our eyes.

However none of that is possible in Maori policy without a re-alignment of macro-economic policy. One of the delusions of legislators, policy makers and policy advisors is that their policy makes a beneficial difference. Most of it doesn’t but macro-economic policy does make a difference, beneficial or otherwise, and it has long term effects.

After World War II Keynesian economic policies and trade union advocacy helped lift thousands out of poverty and into the middle class but eventually Robert Muldoon took it too far and created a command economy akin to the communist/socialist economies he detested. Whereas Muldoon had tried to hold back the tide Roger Douglas corrected the excesses of Muldoon and brought the New Zealand economy into the real world. But Douglas and after him Ruth Richardson took it too far and brought in harsh neo-liberal ideologically driven policies that over the next thirty years entrenched inequality and poverty into the political economy.

” … almost all the increase in our economic inequality stems from the reductions in the effectiveness of the redistribution system as a result of the lower taxes on the rich introduced by Rogernomics and of the benefit cuts under Ruthanasia”.

– Brian Easton, Book Review of “Inequality: A NZ Crisis”, Listener, 10 Oct 2013.

Ironically Maori policy over that same period has ostensibly been aimed at improving the lot of most Maori yet macro-economic policy has worked powerfully in exactly the opposite direction. Policy aimed at overall Maori development and Maori advancement makes very little if any difference to the lives of most Maori unless macro-economic policy is aligned. It is not aligned, not in the least. Maori policy over the last thirty years has however succeeded in aligning the mindset of a minority of Maori, the elites, with the neo-liberal agendas that drive it.

Unfortunately for Maori and for Aotearoa New Zealand the political and economic elites still have their noses buried in the imagined past and their eyes fixed on a delusional future divined in ideological day dreaming and wishful thinking. Neo-liberal macro-economic policy sometimes described as zombie economics reigns still despite the evidence of the collapse of financial markets in the Global Financial Crisis due to naked greed and a lack of political will and regulation to curb the greed. Neo-liberal policy reigns still despite the evidence of growing and increasingly entrenched inequality and poverty.

Which is what defines most Maori despite thirty years of Maori policy; inequality and poverty. The evidence is there in the present for all to see yet few seem aware of the reality of the present. It is the hugely influential psychological phenomenon of time perspective at work.

The Maori elites themselves, influencing and making Maori policy, seem seduced by their own achievement and somehow convinced that more of the same policy and the benefits they have accrued from it will somehow trickle down and raise the standard of living for the rest of Maori. They too are living in a re-imagined and reconstructed past, an imagined present and focused on a delusional future.

So much for the whimsical ruminations and ramblings of an unbeliever, yet ever an optimist. A long-term inter-generational perspective is required of an optimist. Things do gradually get better over time despite unhelpful time perspectives, ideological backwaters, side channels and dams, and despite politicians and policy makers and their stop-go, around-and-around-and-around-and-around policies.

For poor and struggling Maori Christmases come and go with monotonous regularity marking neither change nor advancement in their lives but just the passing of another 365 days of struggle and the prospect of another 365 days exactly the same. For most of them the past is the present and the present is the future.

They are the ones described in “Duino Elegies” by the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke as the “disinherited ones to whom neither the past nor the future belongs”.

Boxing Day, 2013.

Related Essays

Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki: The Evolution of Maori Culture
The Evolution of Pakeha Culture
The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy
The Mythology of the Whanau-Hapu-Iwi Construct
The Origins of Corporate Iwi
The Maori Economy – A Fanciful Notion
The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur
The Treaty of Waitangi Revisited
Te Ture Whenua Maori Review – Who Benefits?

The Maori Worldview & Maori Policy

“Given a choice between their worldview and the facts, it’s always interesting how many people toss the facts”.

– Rebecca Solnit

What is the Maori worldview? Does my worldview represent the Maori worldview? Does yours? In a previous essay, “The Evolution of Pakeha Culture”, I wrote about how the Maori worldview had been transformed and shaped by contact, adoption and adaptation of European culture. In this essay I will look at some of the facts to discover just what the Maori worldview might be in the 21st Century. It might be a difficult task.

The Maori elites in academia, education, politics, public service, and in the burgeoning Maori business and services sector (including neo-tribal corporate iwi) promote their worldview as the Maori worldview. It is broadly based on cleaving to “traditional” tikanga values, incorporating them into their various fields of endeavour, and on speaking Te Reo Maori. For instance the Kaupapa Maori model of research developed by Professors Graham and Linda Smith is now the standard research model in the universities and elsewhere. Matauranga Maori is the new academic epistemological niche in which many Maori academics now ply their trade. Many of the elites in the Maori business sector (grandiosely named the Maori economy) proclaim a Maori model of business and business management based on tikanga. In education many assume that Maori medium education is the model that represents the Maori worldview.

These elites however comprise just a fraction of the Maori population. The assumption that the rest of the Maori population follow their lead and accept their version of a Maori worldview needs to be tested for it is of vital importance in the making of Maori policy for all Maori. We need to look at all Maori rather than at the dominant Maori elites and their proclaimed worldview.

The data

A good place to start on this journey of discovery is with some census and population statistics that can tell us a lot about who and where we are. Being ethnically Maori and identifying as Maori would be the foundation of a Maori worldview, if there is one:

  • As at 2013 there are 668,724 people of Maori descent in Aotearoa New Zealand; and
  • 598,605 (89.5%) of those identify as Maori.

Of those who identify as Maori:

  • 273,192 (45.6%) identified Māori and one other ethnicity;
  • 38,079 (6.4%) identified Māori and two other ethnicities;
  • 9,138 (1.5%) identified Māori and three or more other ethnicities;
  • 278.196 (46.5%) identified only as Maori (although that does not mean that all or most of them do not have other ethnic heritage); and therefore
  • We are of at least one other heritage as well as Maori.

Language and religion are two of the cornerstones of worldviews and cultures. That the fusion of Maori and European cultures is a dominant feature is shown in these statistics:

  • 100% of Maori speak the English language; and
  • In 2006 98% of Maori declared that they were Christian indicating that one of the foundations of the modern Maori worldview if it exists is a transplanted European religion which has its roots in a Middle Eastern tribal mythology.

With regard to traditional identity through whakapapa (but not necessarily modern allegiance) we find that:

  • 18.5% don’t know which “iwi” they belong to; and therefore that
  • 81.5% do know which “iwi” they belong to, indicating that whakapapa might still be a strong influence in the worldviews of most Maori; however
  • To find out what percentage of Maori really know their whakapapa we would need to know what percentage of Maori know which hapu they belong to, and it will certainly be a lot less than 81.5%. Official statistics focus on “iwi” affiliation which is a modern inaccurate measure of whakapapa affiliation (see The Mythology of the Whanau Hapu Iwi Construct).

From there the cohesion starts to splinter. About traditional values and practices we find that;

  • 21.3% of Maori speak Te Reo Maori at a conversational level;
  • 79.7% don’t speak Te Reo Maori; and
  • Only 2.3% of eligible Maori students are enrolled in Maori medium education, meaning that 97.7% are enrolled in mainstream education.

The electoral rolls and polls tell a different but similar story about affiliation and identity in matters political:

  • As at 24 July 2013 there were 256,212 people (55.7%) enrolled on the Maori electoral rolls and 203,640 people of Maori descent (44.3%) on the General roll, a total of 459,852 registered electors.
  • As at December 2013 the Maori Party is polling at 1.3% and the Mana Party at 0.9%.

We are mostly city dwellers indicating that most of us live removed from our traditional hapu and marae, and also removed from the neo-tribal corporate iwi that are now dominant in Maori policy formation and delivery:

  • In New Zealand about 87% live in the North Island;
  • 84.4% live in urban areas;
  • 23.8% live in the Auckland region;
  • 14% in the Waikato region;
  • 11.5% in the Bay of Plenty region; and
  • 9.7% in the Wellington region.

Many Maori are Australian Maori;

  • There are about 128,500 Maori (or about 17.6% of all Australasian Maori) living in Australia, many in regular physical and digital contact between the two countries; and
  • To many Maori whanau Australia and New Zealand are now virtually the same country.

A snapshot of the socio economic landscape

Socio economic statistics provide an indication of the lives of Maori. Income is a primary indicator of socio economic status. There are two measures of an adequate income, the “living wage” and the “minimum wage”:

  • The “living wage” is $57,432 per annum per household (of 1.5 adult earners), or $18.41 per hour per adult wage earner. That equates to $38,288 per annum for a single adult;
  • The “minimum wage” for a single adult is $28,600 per annum, or $13.75 per hour;
  • The median income for Maori is $22,500 per annum, meaning that 50% of Maori over 15 earn $22,500 or less; and therefore
  • Most adult Maori are earning less than the minimum wage and considerably less than a living wage.

In my whanau and hapu we have some who have made it into the middle class, some who live in poverty and many in the middle who struggle to make ends meet. I imagine that we are representative of Maori society as a whole. There are also many single mothers, a status that almost always consigns them and their children to the ranks of the poor or struggling.

The Poor

  • In the thirty years since the mid-1980s New Zealand has fallen in the OECD rankings of income inequality across 34 developed countries from one of the more equal near the top of the rankings to below 20 in the rankings; and
  • that growth in inequality has fallen disproportionately upon Maori.

New Zealand, for obvious political reasons, does not have an official “poverty line” but a generally accepted measure of poverty is a household income equating to just 60% of the national median income after housing costs are deducted:

  • The national median income is $28,500, being $36,000 for males and $23,100 for females (50% earn less than the median income and 50% earn more);
  • The poverty line for a family of 2 adults and 2 children would be about $24,000 per annum; and
  • For a family of 1 adult and 1 child it would be about $16,000 per annum.

Data concerning Maori poverty includes the following;

  • 15.6% of employment aged Maori in New Zealand were unemployed in 2013, up from 11% in 2006;
  • 50% of all Maori aged 15 and over earn less than $22,500 per annum. At least 50% of Maori are poor or struggling or both;
  • 1 in 3 Maori children are living in poverty;
  • The percentage of Maori living in poverty has almost doubled over the last 30 years. Those were the years of the Maori renaissance, Maori programme delivery, Maori medium education, language revival initiatives, treaty settlements, corporate iwi, and the promotion of the fanciful “Maori economy”; and the years of the neo-liberal political economy; and
  • Maori make up about 33% of all working age welfare beneficiaries.

Maori have always been over-represented in the underprivileged, unemployed and unqualified class of citizenry for reasons not entirely, or not even, of their own making. Since the neo-liberal economic revolution of the 1980s and 1990s inequality of income and wealth has dramatically increased and Maori are overwhelmingly over-represented in the ranks of the poor.

The Struggling

  • 33% of Maori have no formal qualifications.
  • Of those in employment about 19.4% are labourers.

Then there are the many who may not be in poverty, and may even be employed part-time or full-time but on low wages, and who live above the poverty line but who nevertheless struggle to make ends meet. They tend to be invisible to policy makers but they are probably the majority of Maori.

Middle Class

  • 36,000+ Maori have at least one university degree;
  • About 17.5% of adult Maori earn over $50,000; and
  • 16.4% of Maori in employment are professionals, and 11.6% managers.

This is where the elites reside although not all middle class Maori participate in the activities of the elites. There has been a steady increase in the numbers of Maori joining the socio economic middle class. They include the university educated and those with trade or other qualifications. Qualification seems to be the gateway to the middle class. The middle class is still a minority.

High Earners

  • About 7.5% of adult Maori earn over $70,000; and
  • About 2.5% earn over $100,000.

As in general society the growing inequality of incomes and wealth is reflected in Maori society with just a few individuals and whanau benefitting from neo-liberal political and economic policies.

The Maori Employment Sector

In “The Origins of Corporate Iwi” I noted that there is “a fast growing Maori employment and career sector that did not exist 25 years ago”. It comprises corporate iwi, non-tribal providers, Maori broadcasters, Maori land incorporations, Maori medium education and statutory Maori bodies such as Te Puni Kokiri, the Maori Trustee, Te Taurawhiri i Te Reo Maori and others. It is difficult to determine just how many Maori are employed in this sector but with just 17.5% of adult Maori earning over $50,000 it must be a small minority. That belies the belief held by many that it is a statistically significant sector and that the re-invention of the “iwi” holds the key to the advancement of Maori in general. Most Maori remain in the Poor and Struggling categories.

Welfare Beneficiaries

  • Maori make up 33% of all working age welfare beneficiaries.

Whilst the much proclaimed pepeha says, “Ko te kai a te rangatira he korero”, I maintain, “Ko te mahi a te rangatira he kai”. The real rangatira is the one who feeds the people.

Work & Income New Zealand (WINZ) is by far the biggest provider for the Maori people. As providers the kaikorero in corporate iwi come a distant last.

Alcohol and other Substances

Alcohol is still a major social problem as it has been since colonisation but we now have other drugs as well. There are many Maori whanau with a member or members whose lives have been blighted by drugs, some to the point where they are seriously mentally ill and institutionalised. In Auckland the gangs are handing out free “P” to 10 year olds, getting them addicted and turning them into customers by the time they are 12. The gangs hang about outside the schools to prey on the young. It’s good business.

Alcohol and drug addiction is not solely confined to the poor but poverty is a major factor in substance abuse. And Maori comprise a disproportionate number of the poor.

Crime

The rate of criminal offending is linked directly to poverty and to the proportion of young males in a community. Maori are again over-represented in both. 80% of criminal offending is committed while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Theft is also prevalent among drug users, committed to pay for the addiction.

“Maori are being imprisoned at a rate six times that of non-Maori. For Maori males born in 1975, it is estimated that 22 per cent had a Corrections managed sentence before their twentieth birthday, and 44 percent had a Corrections managed sentence by the age of thirty-five”.

– Kim Workman and Tracy McIntosh, 2013, “Crime, Imprisonment and Poverty”, in “Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis”, ed Max Rashbrooke, Bridget Williams Books.

It is well known that Maori comprise about 50% of all prisoners. Prison is just part of the reality of a great many Maori and their whanau.

Maori age statistics

Most Maori are young Maori:

  • The median age of Maori is 23.9 years meaning that half of all Maori are aged under 24; and
  • 33.8% of Maori are aged 15 years or less.

What do the statistics tell us?

That information doesn’t tell us what our Maori worldview is, that is what we believe and what we think. However it does give us an indication of the wide diversity of Maori in the 21st Century, 173 years on from the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi when we were much less diverse and probably did share a common worldview. It does tell us as a basis for examining what we do have in common that:

  • 100% of Maori speak English;
  • 99.1% identify as Maori;
  • About 98% are Christian;
  • 50% earn less than $22,500 per annum (and 50% earn more than $22,500);
  • We are urban dwellers; and
  • Most Maori are young Maori.

Whatever our worldview or worldviews they include a deep infusion of the English language and thought as well as the Christian religion, and are heavily influenced by global culture.

This should come as no surprise as it was foreshadowed over 60 years ago by Sir Apirana Ngata in his now famous words written in the autograph book of Mrs Rangi Barcham (née Bennett), daughter of the late Sir John Mokonuiarangi Bennett.

“E tipu e rea, mo nga ra o tou ao,
ko to ringa ki nga rakau a te Pakeha hei ora mo te tinana,
ko to ngakau ki nga taonga a o tipuna Maori hei tikitiki mo to mahuna,
a ko to wairua ki to Atua, nana nei nga mea katoa”.

“Thrive in the days destined for you,
Your hand to the tools of the Pakeha, sustenance for the body,
Your heart to the treasures of your ancestors, to adorn your head,
Your soul to God to whom all things belong”.

Regardless of the degree of adoption of European and global cultural mores ethnic identity as Maori is a given, but it should not be mistaken for cultural identity. The data tells us that economic survival could well be of far greater daily concern to most Maori than cultural identity, cultural retention and revival, and cultural values, although the two are not mutually exclusive.

The worldview or worldviews of the youthful majority are those that should be more relevant to the future of Maori rather than the worldviews of Maori leaders, policy makers and elites who are the minority, invariably over 30 and mostly over 40.

Living Maori culture – some observations

  • 21.3% speak Te Reo Maori.
  • 79.7% don’t speak Te Reo Maori

It is difficult to quantify the numbers of those still living the Maori culture or the modern and evolved version of it. There are some who are steeped in the culture and live it continuously, there are some who live it regularly but not continuously, some who live it occasionally or irregularly, and many not at all. All self-identify as Maori.

Nga Ahi Kaa are the keepers of the culture, preserving and practising the tikanga and kawa at the Pa and on the marae, some more enthusiastically than others. Not all of them are speakers of Te Reo although the movement to revive Te Reo through kohanga reo, kura kaupapa and broadcasting has increased its use in areas where it had declined.

The Maori boarding schools were for generations keepers of the culture and the language. More recently Maori medium schooling has had the effect of reviving cultural practice at school at least. Some of those students also live the culture at home but some, perhaps many, live it at school but not at home. Almost all of those students also live the mainstream culture. Some culture and language is taught and practised in some mainstream schools.

The Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Maori generation has had a marked effect on Maori society with many of that generation now filling governance, management and other leadership roles in the growing Maori specific employment sector (public service, Maori business, service provision, broadcasting, school teaching and university lecturing).  Many of them are also engaged primarily in mainstream society. Maori studies courses at the universities also contribute their graduates to those who live Maori culture to some degree.

The Matatini kapahaka competition is the central (but not the only) activity that keeps the modern versions of Maori cultural performance alive and thriving. Maori artists including carvers, weavers, painters, sculptors, dancers, actors and writers are also keepers of the culture and at the same time are actively engaged in the constant evolution of their art forms. Mau rakau is thriving.

Those are some of the many ways modern Maori are engaged in aspects of Maori culture.

Nga Ahi Kaa

Most of my whanau and hapu no longer live at home. Some began moving to the cities after the Second World War looking for employment and opportunity. We started moving out in numbers in the 1960s during the economic boom when the whanau could afford to buy houses. We could not build at home because of restrictive local body by-laws. By the time we overturned those restrictions in the 1990s most people had left home anyway. We now live in the cities, in Australia, and elsewhere. The paepae on most marae at home have thinned out but the home people keep them warm. Like almost all hapu in Aotearoa we live elsewhere and travel home. But most never make it, except perhaps for tangihanga.

The Hip Hop Generation

I spent eight years 2001-2009 working in the Auckland region where most Maori live. We were working on a Maori development project. We were into Matauranga Maori, Te Reo Maori, Tikanga Maori and all that as the foundation of Maori education. But slowly it dawned on me in Auckland that the dominant culture amongst Polynesian/Maori youth was Hip Hop. That generation born and raised in that 1984-2005 period in Auckland and elsewhere was the Hip Hop generation.

Hip Hop is everything – dance, music, art and street talk. It retains the former reggae and roots base, adds in rap and break, crump, gangsta and all that. There is an underlying Polynesian expression in it but its essence is American. My father’s generation loved the songs of Paul Robeson, my generation was into rhythm and blues and rock and roll. This generation is hip hop, all of us down through the generations influenced by the music of Afrika via slavery and Amerika. The difference is that Hip Hop has become a complete sub-culture whereas we were just into the music.

It dawned on me that my generation and the next were designing policy and practice based on all the things that my generation had fought for in the 1960s to the 1980s. But it was policy designed for the next generations who had gone somewhere else. The relatively small number who had gone through kohanga and kura were relatively “pure”, culturally speaking, but the rest were somewhere else. This all happened while we had our eyes on the past. Then it dawned on me that that’s what always happens. The next generation always goes somewhere else while the previous generation slips slowly into the past.

Now my grandchildren and great-grandchildren speak three languages – English mostly because that’s how you buy your Nikes and order your McDonalds and KFCs and get on in life, Te Reo Kohanga for those who went to kohanga (most of them) but mostly when their mother or grandmother is listening, and street talk the rest of the time, based I think in Te Reo Hip Hop which is a version of English, sort of. When they message me on Facebook I understand them perfectly because they use English English or Te Reo Kohanga. When they message each other and their multitude of friends I’m lost because it’s a mixture of Street Talk and Txt Talk. As ever they’re all undeniably Maori but not the same sort of Maori as any of the Maori of my generation.

Sport and culture

Sport as we know it today plays a major role in modern Maori culture, across the socio-economic spectrum. We all grew up playing sport, and at our Pa in the days when there were still enough of us living there, we had our own very successful rugby and hockey teams and our own rugby and hockey fields. Rugby Union, Rugby League, Netball, Hockey, Softball, Tennis and Golf are all popular and have been so for generations.

It is a mostly collective competitive activity that resembles the inter-tribal rivalry of old, in both Pakeha and Maori cultures. For many Maori, like many Pakeha, sport is the central activity in their lives, whether as participants or supporters. Sport might even challenge religion as the underpinning of the worldviews of many Maori.

The interesting thing about “sport” as an important post-colonial cultural pursuit is that it was an invention of the elite British schools. “Games” have been part of most cultures for millennia but the concept of “sport” as an inter-tribal contest, often based in forms of warfare, was invented in schools such as Eton and Rugby.

Work and play and raising the kids in the suburbs

When it comes down to it most Maori, like most New Zealanders, are living in the suburbs and trying to make a decent living for themselves and their whanau, and that consumes their lives. When it comes down to it that is the age old preoccupation of all people; food, clothing and housing and hopefully some leisure time and a bit of spare money to be able to enjoy it.

Many Maori in modern New Zealand are not making it.

In the digital age it is easy to imagine that the Maori world revolves around the everyday lives, interests and concerns of our Maori whanau, friends and acquaintances on Facebook until you realise that less than 25% of us subscribe to Facebook. We are not yet defined by our online presence as much as by our everyday lives in the suburbs, most often in the poorer suburbs.

And so to culture and worldview

worldview is the fundamental belief of a person or whole society encompassing all of the individual or society’s knowledge and point-of-view. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it. It comprises:

  • An explanation of the world.
  • A vision of the future answering the question “Where are we heading?”
  • Values, and answers to ethical questions: “What should we do?”
  • A theory and practice about “How should we do it?”
  • A theory of knowledge: “What is true and false?”
  • An account of its own “building blocks,” its origins and construction.

In pre-European times there might have been near universal agreement about those six areas of belief and therefore a common worldview across Te Ao Maori, with some regional and tribal variation. That is absolutely no longer the case. Maori are now living culturally complex and diverse lives in a totally different socio economic landscape and their worldviews are evolving dynamically in Europeanized and globalized contexts.

There is no longer a distinctive and shared Maori worldview. We have moved on.

Culture is a modern concept based on a term first used by the Roman orator Cicero: “cultura animi” (cultivation of the soul). This use of “culture” re-appeared in modern Europe in the 17th century referring to the betterment or refinement of individuals, especially through education. During the 18th and 19th century it came to refer more frequently to the common beliefs and practices of whole peoples. In the 20th century, “culture” emerged as a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of human phenomena that cannot be attributed to genetic inheritance. It has been described as an integrated system of learned behavior patterns which are characteristic of the members of a society and which are not a result of biological inheritance.

Distinctions are currently made between the physical artifacts created by a society, its so-called material culture, and everything else, the intangibles such as language, tikanga, etc. that are the main components of “culture”.

Maori culture today can be defined by having at its core Te Reo Maori and Tikanga Maori. The language itself is evolving as nearly all speakers are second language learners with English as their first language. It is adopting thought patterns, syntax and words from the English language, evolving as all languages do when in close contact with other linguistic traditions. 23.3% of Maori speak the language. 76.7% do not.

Probably the most authoritative and complete description of Tikanga Maori is in Hirini Moko Mead’s “Tikanga Maori, Living by Maori Values” (2003, Huia Publishers, Wellington). The companion text which contains teachings of the ancestors in the form of proverbs or sayings is “Nga Pepeha a nga Tipuna” (2001, Mead & Neil Grove, Victoria University Press, Wellington).

Tikanga Maori” describes “practices and values that many Maori, a growing number, see as necessary for good relations with people and with the land on which they live. These practices and values make up tikanga Maori, or that which exemplifies proper or meritorious conduct according to ancestral law”, according to Hon Justice Sir Edward Taihakurei Durie in his foreword to the book.

What percentage of Maori in 2013 “live by Maori values” or observe some Maori values in their daily lives is not known. It might be close to the nearly 25% who speak Te Reo Maori. Depending on how you define “living by Maori values” it might be a lot more. But the key point is that it is nowhere near universal. Based on Te Reo Maori and Tikanga Maori being the two cornerstones of Maori culture in the modern age it can therefore be said that Maori culture in the traditional sense and even in its modern incarnation is not universally lived and practiced by Maori people.

Prior to colonisation the cultural beliefs and practices of the many hapu would have comprised a large part of the worldview prevailing across the whole of Aotearoa, rooted deep in the evolution of the Polynesian peoples and their ancestors across thousands of years of journeying out of Africa and finally into and across the Pacific. Depending on your definitions the two, worldview and culture, would have been practically synonymous.

However the individual and collective worldviews of Maori in the 21st Century have been hugely influenced and expanded by contact with the European worldview and culture, and indeed by contact with many other immigrant cultures. Since the contact or colonisation period all New Zealanders, Maori and Pakeha, have had their worldview(s) greatly expanded by the discovery of new knowledge, by the relentless march of progress in almost every sphere of life, by travel, contact and interaction with cultures across the globe, and recently by the steady globalisation of commerce and culture. It can no longer be said that Maori culture, whether traditional or modern, represents the totality or near-totality of a Maori worldview. It can no longer be said that there is a Maori worldview.

Most Maori do not live the practices and values of tikanga Maori. Most Maori live somewhere else in the mental and cultural landscape, largely determined by their place in the socio-economic landscape, and by the degree and form of their engagement with the dominant and increasingly global culture.

Putting it bluntly, on the one hand there is a general worldview, fostered by the elites who presumably benefit in some way, in which Maori are a romantic re-tribalised society organised within the mythical whanau/hapu/iwi post-colonial construct, living the idealised concepts and values of tikanga Maori, and speaking Te Reo Maori. On the other hand there is the real world of modern Maori – mostly urban, disproportionately represented in the lower socio-economic class and in the prison population, living in poverty or near poverty in poor quality housing, suffering poor health, under-achieving educationally, beset by racism in their dealings with society and its institutions, and at the bottom of society according to most measures.

The reality of the Maori condition arises out of a culture of struggle and resistance. It is a struggle against insurmountable odds to make any headway into the mainstream of a New Zealand society of affluence and consumerism, and resistance against the seemingly oppressive forces of the state and its political economy that conspire to maintain that status quo. Over the last two or three generations some Maori have made it into an educated middle class but the Maori middle class is still a minority and it and its idealised worldview is not representative of Maori in general.

Maori don’t live in that idealised mindspace created in the academy, in the bureaucracy and in corporate iwi. Maori live in the mindspace created by mainstream society and its worldview; its religion, laws, regulations, political and economic system, schools, hospitals, workplaces, shopping malls, courts, prisons, cheap rental housing and welfare system. That’s where Maori live. Maori live within the mainstream Western worldview and it doesn’t serve them at all well. The idealised Maori worldview of the educated Maori elites doesn’t serve them at all, and never will.

The implications for Maori policy

This has deep implications for Maori policy. Or it ought to.

For the last thirty or forty years policy has been driven by the Maori elites, driven down the Maori development or Maori advancement track of language and cultural revival (including Maori medium education and Maori broadcasting), neo-tribal invention and identity, treaty settlements, business development, and primary healthcare engagement. But that is not where most Maori are. That is where the elites are. If Maori policy were to address the needs and aspirations of most Maori where they are it would tackle first and foremost the hard issues of poverty and unemployment.

My intention here is not to denigrate the beliefs and endeavours of the elites or to declare them invalid, for they are perfectly valid in their own context. But it is their context, not that of most Maori.

If Maori policy were to address the needs and aspirations of most Maori where they are it would not pander to the needs and expectations of the elites.

The elites can and do look after themselves. And they have consumed the lion’s share of Maori policy budgets for the past thirty years, not to mention the dividends from treaty settlements. The burgeoning Maori employment and career sector where they are concentrated has been built upon the capture of resources by the elites.

Meanwhile most Maori are under 25 and most Maori of all ages still live on Struggle Street.

My readers should understand that I am not saying that language and cultural retention or revival are unimportant. What I am saying is that policy aimed at language and culture should not be confused with policy aimed at overall Maori development and Maori advancement. I am also saying that policy aimed at the development of neo-tribal corporate iwi and at Maori business development should not be confused with policy aimed at overall Maori economic development.

I am saying that is not where most Maori are. That’s where the elites are.

Related Essays

Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki: The Evolution of Maori Culture
The Evolution of Pakeha Culture
The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy
The Mythology of the Whanau-Hapu-Iwi Construct
The Origins of Corporate Iwi
The Maori Economy – A Fanciful Notion
The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur
The Treaty of Waitangi Revisited
Te Ture Whenua Maori Review – Who Benefits? 
Perspectives of Time, Small Prophecy & Maori Policy
Draining the Swamp – Some Fundamentals for Maori Policy Makers
Maori Policy: Challenging the Status Quo – A Call to Reengage in the Struggle
He Tangata – Maori Policy, Economics and Moral Philosophy

The Treaty of Waitangi Revisited

The Treaty, Maori development and the Constitution

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For the last 45 years the Treaty of Waitangi has been the central icon, or pou whakapono, in Maori political discourse and action. It was one of the rallying pou for political activism from the 1960s to the 1990s.

The Treaty attained political standing and limited legal standing with the passage of the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 which established the Waitangi Tribunal and empowered it to investigate contemporary grievances and claims. Many Maori misunderstood the political recognition that some grievances needed to be settled via a legal or quasi-legal process for legal recognition of the Treaty itself. The Tribunal’s mandate was extended in 1985 to allow it to accept claims dating back to 1840. In that largely political and limited legal incarnation it came to underpin most Maori social and economic development initiatives, and almost all claims to settle historical grievances.

The Treaty has undergone many transformations in the way we regard it. At the moment we are having a conversation about whether it should form part of the Constitution (as entrenched supreme law). The constitutional advisory panel is considering the place of the Treaty in the New Zealand Constitution.  The questions arising in the conversation so far about the Treaty include:

  • What will happen once all historical Treaty grievances are settled?
  • Should the Treaty be entrenched?

This essay questions the prevailing mindset about the Treaty of Waitangi. E hika ma, you may not like what I have to say but stay with me and together let’s explore another viewpoint. Instead of just accepting the common view or the prevailing paradigm I think that we should from time to time take a close look at our beliefs, and the premises and assumptions underlying them. Sometimes we do confirm our beliefs, but disturbingly sometimes we realise we have just gone along with the crowd and that perhaps the crowd is wrong, or even that we are going along with the wrong crowd.

So let’s take another look at our Treaty.

A treaty is a form of contract usually between sovereign nations but in this case between a sovereign nation (Britain) on the one hand and the chiefs of many hapu on the other. In 1840 when it was signed it was a political and diplomatic document that served to legitimise the British presence in Aotearoa and purported to confer upon Maori the benefits of becoming British subjects. Some who signed it were sceptical, many were not. Many did not sign it.

There has been much contemporary speculation about the reason so many chiefs signed the Treaty and some have even stated that they didn’t really know what they were signing. Some have said that they had just a week or less to consider its implications. However I lean towards the opinion expressed by the late Wi Kuki Kaa in Te Putatara 5/90 of 21st May 1990:

“I resent the implication that the Kahui Ariki at Waitangi 1840 didnt quite know what they were about. E hika ma! They werent dumb; they were learned men, products of missionary education. They wanted, because they needed it, a document to create some form of law and order: to protect themselves from the rapaciousness of the re-settlers whose material goods had helped to improve their standard of living; but also from those of us in the Tai Rawhiti and elsewhere still smarting from the humiliations inflicted on us by Cyclone Hongi, Cyclone Pomare or Cyclone Patuone.

“The Tai Tokerau people were becoming prosperous – a situation which only thrives in a climate of peace.

“The re-settlers especially the missionaries also needed the Treaty in order to legitimise their pieces of real estate recently acquired; by hook, crook, or holy book. Nobody is going to convince me that the aims of the Confederation (Kotahitanga) were forgotten from 1835 until 1840. Ko te kai a te rangatira, he korero. So you need less than half a wit to realise that the arguments went on at hui for years, culminating in that fateful day in February 1840”.

Despite contemporary debate over its exact meaning, whether in English or Maori, it was basically a political power sharing agreement between the British and quite a few but not all chiefs of hapu. The powers to be shared and how they were to be shared were probably deliberately left open to interpretation. Formal agreements between nations with different worldviews are difficult to formalise in detail, and are often vague and open to interpretation, indicating intention to engage rather than detailed agreement.

As with the many modern diplomatic and political agreements between protagonists in the Middle East the devil is in the detail and they always unravel over the details or when political circumstances change.

Much contemporary scholarship and debate has been over the exact meaning of the Treaty rather than its original political intent. Contemporary scholarship and debate has often attempted to infer exact application to a great many contemporary issues. Therefore in contemporary times there have been hundreds of different interpretations of the intent of the document, depending on the political or economic aims of the interpreter. For a time it seemed that every Maori or Maori organisation with a grievance about anything and everything called upon the Treaty to impose obligations on the government of the day and to legitimise preferred solutions to their grievances.

The Treaty debate and process has certainly served the political aims of Maori, or some Maori, for the time being anyway, but it hasn’t greatly influenced the social and economic well being of most Maori and it doesn’t tell us much about it’s future.

Political agreements, both formal and informal, remain in force only until they no longer serve the purposes of one of the partners to the agreement. They do not stand for all time. They are agreements of convenience at the time they are negotiated.

And that is exactly the history of the Treaty of Waitangi. It is arguable that the Treaty might not have served the purposes of all Maori from the very beginning even though it was signed by and served the purposes of many chiefs, the northern chiefs in the first instance. However as soon as it no longer served the purposes of the British, after they had mustered sufficient population and military power to govern in their own right without the consent of the chiefs, the Treaty was consigned to the back of the cupboard where it became urine stained and chewed by rats.

And there it stayed for many decades.

From time to time Maori attempted to resurrect the Treaty mostly in relation to disputes over the alienation of land. The Government, now ruling in its own right without meaningful Maori participation, ignored them. The courts declared the Treaty to be no longer valid or no longer living. If the exercise of power on behalf of its primary constituency is what government is, then that was probably a legitimate political stance. It may not have been morally defensible from the Maori point of view but political reality often abjures the moral when it is inconvenient. That’s not just a Pakeha trait. It would have been equally true of inter-hapu political life in traditional Maori society. We too held to our agreements only so long as they served our own purposes.

So in the interim while the Treaty kept company with the rats in the cupboard Maori did indeed keep it alive but it was a one-sided treaty by then and one-sided treaties have no force either in law or in political engagement.

The balance can only be resurrected or restored through the weight of numbers or through political or military action. That did not happen until 1975 when the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 was made law, sponsored by Matiu Rata after over a decade of political activism, demonstration and networking had gained for Maori sufficient political support and moral suasion to resurrect the Treaty in limited form. Even so that was a political resurrection with very limited legal force.

The present constitutional conversation is about whether or not it should acquire legal force.

Our need to resurrect the Treaty is driven by our relative lack of political power more than anything else. If we had the political power we wouldn’t need the Treaty. Nor would we need to talk about the Treaty in a constitutional conversation.

However during that period around 1975 and in the two decades following the passage of that Act, the Treaty was transformed in the rhetoric of activist Maori from a fraud under the mantra “The Treaty is a Fraud” to the status of kawenata tapu, a sacred living covenant under the mantra “Honour the Treaty”.

As a result of that burst of political activity the “principles” of the Treaty have found their way into legislation and into a great many of the affairs of the nation. Treaty activism has been the foundation for hundreds of millions of dollars of grievance settlements and in that sense the Treaty continues to financially speak.

Many lists of Treaty principles have been devised by the Waitangi Tribunal and in the courts. In 1989 Labour government became the first New Zealand government to set out principles to guide its actions on matters relating to the treaty.

Those principles were:

  • the government has the right to govern and make laws
  • iwi have the right to organise as iwi, and, under the law, to control their resources as their own
  • all New Zealanders are equal before the law
  • both the government and iwi are obliged to accord each other reasonable cooperation on major issues of common concern
  • the government is responsible for providing effective processes for the resolution of grievances in the expectation that reconciliation can occur.

The principles found their way into some legislation and guided government action, or inaction, in relation to the Treaty itself. However they are a rather weak statement of democratic principles that are found with much more clarity and force in the NZ Bill of Rights which itself has not yet been entrenched as supreme constitutional law.

The Waitangi Tribunal has formulated another set of principles including:

  • the principle of partnership;
  • the principle of active protection (of Maori interests);
  • the principle of redress for historical wrongs.

Within those principles the Tribunal has described a number of duties the Crown should observe. The acceptance of the Tribunal’s principles and duties is however a matter of political agreement at any given time by the incumbent government. To date governments have mostly accepted them and have been actively engaged in reaching settlement agreements. That process however will surely come to an end.

This year a government appointed constitutional advisory panel is consulting with the public on the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in the constitutional arrangements of New Zealand. That conversation has been sponsored by the Maori Party through its political support of the National Party in government; an exercise in political influence.

Was it the Treaty itself that brought us to this state of political balance, or was it the exercise of political influence that did it. Could not the same balance have been achieved through the common law and international law with the same exercise of political influernce by Maori. It’s a moot point but not really relevant given that the Treaty was the pou whakapono which gave focus to the political struggle. It serves our political purpose to raise the Treaty to the status of kawenata tapu.

But is that its true intrinsic value. Is it not just a convenient pou whakapono, albeit a very useful pou whakapono.

Consider this. If Maori had retained superior population numbers from 1840 until the present day and if today we were now 75% of the population or even just 51% of the population how would we now view the Treaty of Waitangi. Would we not have consigned it to the back of the pataka, hei kai mo nga kiore, and left it there even if our treaty partner agitated for its resurrection, a one sided treaty. Of course we would have. We would have totally ignored the Treaty. That’s politics and in politics the losers lose. But we were the losers so for us the Treaty lives.

So it’s not intrinsically tapu or intrinsically constitutional. Its value and status depends entirely on both partners acting in agreement. It will never be accorded the status of a constitutional founding document unless and until both partners reach political consensus. The Treaty is such a sensitive public issue anyway that consensus will require a referendum before any legislation, and to entrench it as constitutional law will require 75% of the Parliament to consent.

It is now as it was in 1840, a convenient political document, but this time convenient for the Maori partner. And only time will tell how long it remains so. I don’t see it making its way into the constitution any time soon.

Constitutionally I would prefer that the Bill of Rights be entrenched as Supreme Law rather than the Treaty of Waitangi. It would powerfully serve to curb the excesses of government and to preserve democracy for all.

Notwithstanding my view of the future of the Treaty it will be with us for some time yet. Many political, bureaucratic, academic, legal and corporate iwi careers have been built upon the Treaty of Waitangi over the last 25 years. The elites have a vested interest in maintaining the very useful fiction of the Treaty as the forever speaking founding document of the nation, and even as kawenata tapu.

Meanwhile the social and economic well being of most Maori remains unaffected and untouched by the Treaty of Waitangi in either its original or contemporary interpretation.

E hika ma, that wasn’t too bad was it? Have you changed your mind about the Treaty?

 

Previous constitutional essays:
Does a constitution protect and promote democracy
Let’s talk democracy
Abolish the Pakeha seats

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The Origins of Corporate Iwi

This essay traces the origins of corporate iwi from 1984. The author was personally involved in the formation of the iwi and community provider network and its struggle to attain legitimacy. Much of the information that follows is sourced from the author’s personal diary and journal entries of the time, and from commentary in Te Putatara.

Based on that kaupapa the election of a Labour government in July 1984 and the appointment of Koro Wetere as Minister of Maori Affairs presaged a renewed impetus in Maori development in which were sown the seeds that grew into modern corporate iwi. It was the beginning of transfer of funding, power and responsibility from government agencies to both tribal and community providers.

Sir Apirana Ngata led an early Maori development initiative focused on land, culture, the arts and education. He advocated for the Maori Land Act 1909 under which previously established Maori land incorporations were legislated. Much of his work before and during his time in Parliament (1905-1943) including a period as  Minister of Maori Affairs (1928-34) was focused on land reform and development, including the formation of Maori land incorporations.

Prior to its abolition in 1989 the Board of Maori Affairs was heavily involved in land management  and development through its Maori Land Advisory committees and supported by the Department of Maori Affairs in both advisory and executive functions.  The Department was also providing Maori housing loans and running a very successful trade training scheme. The Maori Trustee had long been involved primarily in land management rather than land development.

The modern drive for economic and social development began in the Department of Maori Affairs and in the Maori Trustee in the early 1980s with further programmes such as Tu Tangata under Secretary Kara Puketapu in the term of a National government. The Department was enthusiastically supported by Maori communities. In 1982 Te Kohanga Reo was established by the Department with 100 kohanga opened in the first year, growing to 800 kohanga by 1994 with 14,000 mokopuna enrolled. The history of that ground brealing initiative is shown in the documentary “Let My Whakapapa Speak”.

However by about 1984 many in the Department and the Trustee saw themselves as the prime movers in development. That was the status quo but many in Te Ao Maori did not share that view.

For instance, when I joined the government development initiative in 1986 I was briefed by the kaumatua of my Wairarapa hapu on our mostly negative history of engagement with both agencies. They asked me to be alert to a repeat of that history. My hapu was not alone in its disquiet.

After its July 1984 election a Labour government convened an economic development conference in October that year; Hui Taumata . Hui Taumata recognized the need for Maori to move from welfare dependency, and for the government to assist Maori to participate in the economy. The conference communiqué, He Kawenata, called for a decade of development.

The Department of Maori Affairs presumption that it would take the lead role in Maori development post-1984 was a misreading of the mood of Hui Taumata. It also led directly to its ill fated and incompetent attempt to negotiate offshore development loans worth hundreds of millions in 1986 (Maori Loans Affair), and ultimately to its dis-establishment in 1989.

By 1986 Minister of Maori Affairs Koro Wetere had negotiated government funding to create a few economic initiatives.

The first was the MANA Enterprises business startup project designed to make low interest loans to fledgling Maori owned businesses. The second was a Maori version of a Labour Department training programme called ACCESS. The Maori version was dubbed MACCESS. It had been known for some time that two key requirements for development were access to capital and improved management and business capability. Both projects were funded by the Labour Department directly to the Board of Maori Affairs rather than the Department of Maori Affairs. The funds were held for the Board in the Maori Trustee account. A further economic development initiative was the Maori Development Corporation set up to act as a venture capital agency.

Wira Gardiner and Ripeka Evans were the two principal consultants who worked with the Minister and the Board to design the MANA and MACCESS projects, to negotiate the funding from government, and then to establish the MANA and MACCESS project teams. In mid 1986 Ross Himona had joined the MANA team and became team leader towards the end of 1986. Ria Earp was recruited by Wira and Ripeka to lead the MACCESS team. MANA was the more controversial of the two and there was a procession of project team leaders.

The kaupapa called for funding for both projects to be delivered through tribal and regional providers. Prior to that all grant, project and programme funding for Maori had been delivered by government agencies, primarily the Department of Maori Affairs through its district offices. There was naturally some resistance within the department and the central and district offices to the creation of a new funding channel not under the control of the department. However there were also many in the department who supported the move.

Until that time the Department of Maori Affairs exerted widespread control over Te Ao Maori. It was the gateway to access to government. Because of its ownership of that gateway it controlled information flow to Te Ao Maori, augmented by its own in-house magazines and its network of community officers. When you control information flows you control everything. Te Putatara was later started in part to defeat that control of information.

Government required all providers in this proposed new funding channel to be incorporated bodies, preferably legislated organisations, to ensure transparency and accountability. At the time almost the only organisations that met the criteria were the existing Maori Trust Boards. An ad hoc delivery mechanism was established consisting of 17 tribal and regional authorities later expanded to 21. They were mostly trust boards, with a few incorporated societies including five urban organisations. The five urban organisations were at Tamaki, Waipareira, Manukau, Whanganui and Wellington. The Waipareira and Manukau organisations still operate in that role.

The Whanganui Regional Employment Board was headed by Tariana Turia. At the time, long before her conversion to the whanau-hapu-iwi construct, she was ardently opposed to tribal delivery. Pita Sharples was the inaugural chairman of Te Runanganui O Ngati Kahungunu, which has since transformed itself via insolvency into Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc.

From mid 1986 seed funding of about $150,000 was distributed to each of the tribal and regional authorities to pilot the MANA Enterprises programme. Between then and the end of 1986 the project was fine tuned ready for the first major distribution of funding. After the pilot the first $9 million was granted and was ready for distribution at the end of 1986.

The Department of Maori Affairs was still trying to gain control of the project to deliver the funding through its district offices. The Board of Maori Affairs project teams who answered directly to two committees of the Board were widely supported in their intention to bypass the department altogether. That was the beginning of a long struggle to remove the department from programme delivery. The department managed to delay distribution of the first $9 million for some weeks towards the end of 1986.

There was another group of very influential players, some of them members of the Board of Maori Affairs and close to Koro Wetere, who were trying to have the funding delivered through non-tribal regional boards to be established under the Board of Maori Affairs itself. They too had no love for the department but equally did not want a tribal system put in place. They persisted into 1987 but gained no traction.

In December 1986 the so-called Maori Loans Affair erupted in Parliament and in the media, fuelled by questions by Winston Peters. The upshot of that was that the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Maori Affairs, Tamati Reedy and Neville Baker, were sent on indefinite leave on Christmas Eve. I was at the hui at Maori Affairs late in the afternoon of Christmas Eve when the State Services Commissioner Don Hunn announced that decision to the department. That took the two main departmental opponents of the tribal and regional delivery channel out of play for a few weeks.

I immediately sought out one of the remaining senior officials who supported the new funding mechanism. Within the hour the $9 million had been moved out of the Maori Trustee account and was on its way to the 17 new providers, to reach their bank accounts ready for them to begin operating the MANA programme in the new year. Until that moment it was likely that the department would prevail.

From early to mid 1987 MACCESS funding followed through the same mechanism. There was much more funding delivered through MACCESS than through MANA and between the two of them they established what eventually became the present system of funding delivery to Maori through tribal and community providers.

A further threat to the new system was Winston Peters who attacked both projects, and of course their sponsor in government, Koro Wetere. Early in 1987 I rang Winston and did a deal with him. He agreed to give me 6 months grace to get MANA Enterprises established and to ensure that accountability and transparency were in place. At the end of that period of grace he resumed his political attacks on both MANA and MACCESS.

The department persisted in its attempts to regain control and did manage to move the MANA and MACCESS teams out of the Board of Maori Affairs into its own direct control.

It mounted attacks on a few of the providers including Tamaki Maori Development Authority, Te Arawa Trust Board and Tainui Trust Board. A few of the providers, including Tamaki and Te Arawa, had tried to establish trade ties in the Pacific. Their private trade missions were monitored by diplomatic and intelligence staff in the Pacific and they were defunded by the Department of Maori Affairs.

I was working closely with Tamaki Maori Development Authority at the time of the Department’s attack which was led by Neville Baker. Like most of the new tribal and regional providers Tamaki was a bit rough around the edges as it developed expertise but was not guilty of the allegations against it. John Tamihere was working for the Department in Auckland at that time. John has since of course carved out a career with Waipareira and is now facing his own real problems. Tamaki won the support of the courts in their case against the Department but were never compensated for the personal and organisation losses caused by the Department.

The attack on Te Arawa was under the guise of allegations of a “2nd Maori Loans Affair”. I was also working closely with Te Arawa at the time and the alleged offshore loan was news to us on the economic development project team. There were also groundless allegations of improper MANA loans being made.

The Tainui Maori Trust Board under the guidance of Robert Mahuta was resolutely heading in its own direction and making its own decisions, tending to ignore the Department.

The 1987 parliamentary maiden speech of Ross Meurant (Hansard, Tuesday October 6th, 1987), who until then had served twenty years in the NZ Police rising to the commissioned rank of Inspector, laid out in great detail the paranoia and fears of Maori terrorism in the police at that time. He named names and organisations, and described how they were funded. He also alleged that Maori had terrorist links with Libya, the PLO, Vanuatu and Fiji. This information and its paranoid interpretation was sourced entirely in police intelligence gathering . To his great credit Meurant, having educated himself and broadened his mind at university and in the real world outside the police and parliament,  has since recanted and explained that the allegations arose out of a police culture of paranoia that he called “Deep in the Forest” in which he had been immersed for twenty years.

There were also rumours circulating in the community, notably in the more fundamentalist churches, that MANA and MACCESS funding was being used to fund criminal and terrorist activity. At about that time a renegade officer from the NZ Security Intelligence Service, who was a member of one of those fundamentalist churches, illegally tried to recruit an informant within the MANA and MACCESS teams. The attempt was made despite his having being ordered by Director SIS to cease his surveillance of Maori. His attempt to infiltrate the teams was thwarted.

As well as fears of criminal and even terrorist infiltration of the funding network many believed that Te Ao Maori was being manipulated by the CIA to destabilise the Labour government. For instance it was reported in the media and believed by some in government that a large US defence industry corporation that was partnering with Te Arawa Trust Board to install IT systems was really a CIA front. There were fears, expressed in the media, that the foreign principals involved in the so-called Maori Loans Affair of 1986 had been CIA operatives.

Throughout 1987 and 1988 there were tensions in the Pacific that added to the overall paranoia in New Zealand. There were two coup d’etat in Fiji, bloodshed in New Caledonia, and there were fears that Maori were linking up with separatist movements in the Pacific. The US and New Zealand governments were also monitoring the activities of the Soviets and the Libyans in the Pacific, fearful that they might support separatist movements. There was also a suspicion that Maori were linking with South Africa and Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC).

Security threats were conceived out of thin air and believed, no matter how remote or ridiculous they might have been, and Maori were invariably woven into the narrative . The tribal and regional authority network was established in that climate, one of intense racism and paranoia.

The Department of Maori Affairs itself, or at least a few at the top, also became increasingly paranoid. As well as operating within the external climate of paranoia it was losing respect and authority and power. Te Putatara did its bit to refine their paranoia.

Tribal and community delivery of funding to Maori somehow managed to survive, and eventually to flourish. As the late Sir Robert Mahuta said at the time, “the genie had been let out of the bottle”. It all seems quite surreal, twenty five years on.

To retain its grip on Maori development the department tried to make all providers agents of the Crown, directly answerable to the department, rather than independent contractors, and for a time they prevailed. In the end they failed and the department was disestablished in 1989 when the Iwi Transition Agency headed by Wira Gardiner (now Sir Wira) was established.

Te Putatara was accused by some department officials of being responsible for their downfall, through a long running campaign in the newsletter. They were far too generous in their praise. Their own “Maori Loans Affair” was a big factor in their demise.

Both the MANA and MACCESS projects eventually went the way of all programmes to Programme Heaven (Whanau Ora has a priority reservation). However the principle was established and funding delivery had been torn from the grasp of the department.

Probably the next major and long lasting initiative was the establishment of the network of Maori health providers by the new and short lived Ministry of Maori Policy. The officials who set up that network had been involved in MACCESS. By that time MACCESS was on its way out or had already gone. The core Maori health network was built around those providers who had operated MACCESS. In the beginning many of them were short on health knowledge and expertise but they were intent on mission transformation and funding capture. To give them their due over time they and many new providers did transform themselves into professional primary health providers. The ropey ones fell by the wayside.

One of the little understood but important initiatives was the delivery of health funding by contract to independent and autonomous providers instead of by funding agreement to agencies of the Crown. That moved more control and independence to the providers.

The rest is history as that ad hoc network of iwi providers evolved quite rapidly into autonomous and independent entities.

On the back of those initial steps in 1986 and 1987 towards tribal and community programme delivery the legislative course of that evolution started with a discussion paper “He Tirohanga Rangapu” in April 1988, followed by the government response to that consultation “Te Urupare Rangapu” in November 1988. That outlined the proposal to establish a new Ministry of Maori Policy and an Iwi Transition Agency. The Runanga-A-Iwi Bill was introduced in December 1989, and the National Government’s policy was published as “Ka Awatea” in 1991.

Policy development and implementation during that period has been documented by Cherryl Waerea-I-Te-Rangi Smith in her University of Auckland masters thesis “Kimihia Te Maramatanga”. Chapter 5 is downloadable here.

The fisheries settlements followed by Treaty settlements required that tribal organisations transform themselves into mandated iwi. Today they are tribal businesses or corporate iwi. Together with a plethora of non-tribal providers, Maori fisheries entities, Maori broadcasters, and with the Maori land incorporations that were in place long before, they form a fast growing Maori employment and career sector that did not exist 25 years ago.

In retrospect I often think that given the present state of Maori development characterized by resource capture by the elites, and doubtful benefit to the majority of Maori, I would not again help in the process of establishing iwi providers. Given the choice I would instead focus on hapu, closer to the people. By hapu I mean both traditional hapu in the tribal homelands and new hapu in the cities where most Maori live. The ideology behind the reinvention of iwi lay in the whanau-hapu-iwi post-colonial construct. However at the time there was barely enough expertise available to establish iwi providers let alone hapu providers.

And at the time the main thing was to wrest control of Te Ao Maori from the Department of Maori Affairs. Its demise in 1989 was a welcome bonus.

Te Kohanga Reo was and is a project aimed exclusively at whanau rather than hapu or iwi, controlled and coodinated by Te Kohanga Reo National Trust. The Trust has been through its challenges but remains committed to that kaupapa. There have been attempts from time to time by the some of the new corporate iwi to wrest ownership of kohanga from the Trust.

Ironically the organisation that was displaced by corporate iwi (and the Iwi Chairs Forum and Iwi Leaders Groups) as the political voice of Maori  actually was representative of hapu rather than iwi, and also represented urban Maori. The NZ Maori Council with it’s Maori Committees in sixteen District Maori Councils was more representative than the corporate iwi network. The rural Maori Committees were mostly marae based (traditional hapu) and the urban Maori Committees represented the new urban hapu. Delegates from the Commiittees sat at the District Maori Councils and delegates from there sat at the NZ Maori Council.

If their language and focus had been on rural and urban hapu instead of committees they may well have flourished in the new development environment.

The NZ Maori Council did take the leading role in obtaining recognition of Treaty rights in the courts and in gaining national pan-Maori settlements.

The problem with the NZ Maori Council was that at the national level it was perceived as being prone to cronyism and controlled by the old generation Brown Table. It did not renew itself from 1984 onwards to bring into the fold the activists who were creating the new paradigm in Maori politics. It did not reach out to the rising new generation of Maori leadership. The exception was the Auckland District Maori Council under Professor Ranginui Walker which did reach out and include the new generation. Like the Department of Maori Affairs the NZ Maori Council assumed that it would continue as the representive voice of Te Ao Maori. They both seriously misread the mood of the times.

In the long run however nothing much changes. The new Brown Table is made up of corporate iwi represented by the Iwi Chairs Forum and its Iwi Leaders Groups. The difference is that it is much less representative at its flaxroots than the old Brown Table. A new more elitist elite has replaced the old elite. Ka hao te rangatahi.

 

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The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur

We have invented a new way to differentiate ourselves as Maori from everyone else where little or no difference exists. We have created a pou whakapono called the Maori entrepreneur. It’s a pretentious myth unless you change the definition of entrepreneur to mean what you want it to mean, in this case to mean any Maori who starts a business or even thinks of starting a business.

Type “Maori entrepreneurship” into Google; I did just now and up came 4,030 results. You will find out that Maori are the third most entrepreneurial indigenous people in the world, the third most entrepreneurial people in the world, or even that Maori are the most entrepreneurial people in the world. You will discover that Maori are more entrepreneurial than Pakeha. You will see infinite variations on the theme quoted time and time again by politicians, bureaucrats, business people and academics. It makes you proud to be Maori because maybe that means that you’re an entrepreneur; a member of the latest new iwi, Ngai Te Ngira-tuitui.

I grew up in a Maori owned business. It was a business with a whakapapa, handed down through three generations to my father, the fourth in line to own and operate the business. I didn’t stand in line though, joining the army instead. However I did fly home and operated the business for a whole two weeks after my father died and before I handed it over to my younger brother. It was mainly a shearing and fencing contracting company that also took on a lot of other rural jobs on contract. It was a common Maori business for those times; many of my father’s brothers and cousins were also contractors.

In our hapu there were about eight whanau businesses including farming businesses, and between them they employed most of the whanau and hapu during the shearing, crutching and fencing seasons. In the off seasons the people worked at the freezing works or at the fruit and vegetable canneries, and on local farms. The whanau who worked in our business would also depend on the business to tide them over the winter when there was little work available. They would draw regular interest-free advances or loans that would be repaid out of their wages during the season. That was common practice in all of the whanau businesses.

When the farming sector did well the whanau businesses did well. When the whanau businesses did well all of the whanau in the hapu did well, and facilities at the marae were built and well maintained. A new LDS chapel was built.

My father, his brothers and cousins were businessmen, although they all still thought of themselves as working men. They had grown up as working men in similar businesses and still worked in their own businesses. They did not give themselves pretentious labels such as entrepreneur, or even businessman. The most they would own to was contractor but true to their roots they were still working men. They were known by the workers as the Maori Boss.

In my turn I set up and operated a city based business of my own. The common pretentious term was consultant but true to my roots I always thought of myself as a contractor, because that’s what I did. I contracted to do whatever it was that my clients needed done that I was capable of doing. Sometimes they wanted to consult and benefit from my greater expertise but most often they just wanted me to do stuff.

I learnt very quickly that it was just like the shearing and fencing contracting business. There were good times and there were lean times as there probably are in most small businesses and I had to make sure I put something aside for the winter. Was I an entrepreneur and did I think of myself as an entrepreneur. Well I did take some risk and one or two of my business ventures fell over and the money I invested in them was lost but no, I was just a common or garden contractor in the guise of a businessman. I occasionally tried my hand at the entrepreneurial stuff but mostly, like most people in business, I preferred the low risk stuff.

The term entrepreneur used to describe those who applied considerable innovation to their enterprise, and who took considerable risk as well, not just the usual old risk of having a mortgage over your house to fund your business. The entrepreneur would put everything on the line and when he or she crashed and burned would climb back out of the wreck and do it all again and again. The entrepreneur did it with his or her own money and with money from investors who were willing to share in the risk. These days the investors are called venture capitalists. Sometimes they are called gullible whanau.

The common or garden businessperson on the other hand would sell the boat, borrow from his or her parents, and invite the bank to invest in the business. The bank would have no capital at risk because it would, and still does, take a mortgage over a house and over the business assets to make sure that it doesn’t lose its money. The bank is not in the business of financing entrepreneurs. That’s for venture capitalists.

These days it seems that entrepreneur now means anyone who has started a business and even anyone who is thinking of starting a business. And that is exactly the wide and loose definition that started this myth of the Maori entrepreneur. It all started with:

 “Global Entrepreneurship Monitor – New Zealand 2001 (Frederick, H.H., and Carswell P.J., 2001, New Zealand Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland).

“At UNITEC we define an innovation as something new which has the potential of changing relationships. That is a wide definition, but it includes any new service or product that could change an economic (buy me!), social (opt for me!), political (vote for me!), or even cultural (listen or look at me!) relationship. But an innovation uncommercialised or unexploited is an innovation wasted. So we define entrepreneurship as the commercialisation of innovation”.

“To capture this distinction, for the purposes of the GEM research our definition is an entrepreneur is a person attempting to create a new business enterprise either through spotting a new opportunity or out of necessity, job loss or redundancy”.

That definition reflects a North American linguistic viewpoint rather than that commonly found in New Zealand, Australia and Britain where we are much less grandiose than our American friends; ngawari even. We usually regard entrepreneurial activity as the visionary, innovative and risk taking part of the overall SME (small and medium enterprise) sector. The Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) Index used at Unitec to measure entrepreneurship opts for the American definition and includes all nascent (yet to be started) and newly started businesses.

The 2001 report contains a short section on Maori entrepreneurship. However it was their 2005 report that was the catalyst for the more grandiose claims about Maori entrepreneurship.

The Unitec Global Entrepreneurship Monitor: Towards High Growth Enterprise in New Zealand 03/04” (Frederick, H.H., 2005, New Zealand Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research Report Series, Vol 3, No 1, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland).

Their 2005 report stated:

“Overall our research shows that at both national and international levels, the extent and growth of Mäori entrepreneurship remains comparable if not better than the entrepreneurial strengths shown by other ethnicities, indeed by entire GEM nations. With a TEA rate of 17.1%, Mäori have surpassed all of the nations in GEM with the exception of Uganda, Venezuela, and Argentina. If Mäori were their own country, Aotearoa would rank as the fourth most entrepreneurial country in the world”.

Scientifically speaking, to be considered as definitive research it would have to be replicated and verified by other researchers. Te Putatara is not aware of any other research to confirm those findings. It would also have to be compared with statistical census data from 2001 and 2006. At the moment there appears to be significant variation between Unitec data and Statistics NZ data.

Even if we do use the American definition of entrepreneur we need to look a little deeper into why there are so many business startups by Maori. One reason might be that New Zealand is the easiest, fastest and one of the cheapest countries in the OECD in which to register a company. There is no minimum paid up capital requirement and only a registration fee is required. There may be other reasons.

Statistically in New Zealand about one in ten businesses fail in the first year of operation and 70% capsize within the first five years. I had a couple of those on the way but it was fun trying and important lessons were learned even while the capital investment was lost. I think most business people would prefer to wait to prove their success before they applied the grandiose labels to themselves, and by then they wouldn’t need to.

That then is the source of our new pou whakapono, our Maori entrepreneurship myth. Perhaps it makes us feel good and perhaps to the uninitiated it makes us look good. And perhaps too in the eyes of the thousands of real business people out there, Maori and otherwise, we are being just a bit too pretentious; whakahihi.

It’s the politicians, propagandists, mythmakers, policy makers and the Maori elites whose needs are served by the Maori entrepreneurship myth, not the people who are out there doing the business, and certainly not the Maori people in general. Perhaps it’s main purpose is to attract government funding to support or subsidise a relatively small percentage of Maori businesses.

We should probably measure our entrepreneurial aspirations against the criteria outlined by management guru Peter Drucker (in “Innovation and Entrepreneurship) rather than adopt the definition that created the myth.

“This defines entrepreneur and entrepreneurship – the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” 

“Entrepreneurship rests on a theory of economy and society. The theory sees change as normal and indeed as healthy. And it sees the major task in society – and especially in the economy – as doing something different rather than doing better what is already being done. That is basically what [John-Baptiste] Say, two hundred years ago, meant when he coined the term entrepreneur. It was intended as a manifesto and as a declaration of dissent: the entrepreneur upsets and disorganizes. As Joseph Schumpeter formulated it, his task is “creative destruction.” 

Most businesses just do what many other businesses do. The entrepreneur breaks new ground and does something different, that perhaps no-one has thought of doing before.

For the last word on the matter in a discussion at LinkedIn Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, had this to say:

“The article [in the Economist] points out the confusion around the purpose of entrepreneurship, as well as the motives behind what makes entrepreneurs tick. As the term has to encompass so many different personalities, businesses and viewpoints, it is only natural that misconceptions crop up. Nevertheless, there are some common traits in entrepreneurs – such as finding “worth in the worthless and possibility in the impossible”.

And this:

However, I completely disagree with his [Daniel Isenberg’s] view that “the main motivator for entrepreneurs is the chance of making big money”. If you get into entrepreneurship driven by profit, you are a lot more likely to fail. The entrepreneurs who succeed usually want to make a difference to people’s lives, not just their own bank balances. The desire to change things for the better is the motivation for taking risks and pursuing seemingly impossible business ideas“.

See also: The Maori Economy – a fanciful notion

The Maori Economy – A Fanciful Notion

@Putatara

The present Minister for Maori Affairs and the Maori business elites go on forever about “the Maori economy”. There is no such thing. It’s a myth. Some even go on about an “iwi economy” which is not just a myth and not just fanciful. It’s ridiculous.

It’a a myth unless you totally redefine “economy” to mean just the business activity of corporate iwi, settlement entities, Maori incorporations and trusts, and privately owned small and medium sized enterprises. And unless you don’t include the rest of us, the majority of the 810,200 Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia. But if you do redefine “economy” you would then be talking about the involvement of less than 10% of Maori, probably much less.

“An economy consists of the economic system in a certain region, comprising the production, distribution or trade, and consumption of goods and services in that region or country” – Wikipedia.

Maori business activity takes place within the New Zealand economy and is totally integrated into and reliant on it. Maori business uses mainstream banks, transport and communications. Its market is not Maori. In fact Maori are just a tiny portion of the market for their goods and services. Some of their market is an overseas market. There is no “Maori economy”. There is only Maori business activity within the New Zealand economy; unless of course you redefine “economy” to mean “business”.

The only part of the New Zealand economy that is Maori is some of the production, mainly in primary industry, and the distribution and trading of products. The political system that influences the economy is not Maori, the economic infrastructure including the financial infrastructure is not Maori, and the market is certainly not Maori.

Having said that it is true that Maori economic assets are increasingly being brought into more productive use. It is true that governance and management of those assets is becoming more professional, and that Maori business, particularly Maori agribusiness is growing as a percentage of the national productive sector. It is true that Maori business is making significant moves into the global market especially in China and other Asian markets. And that activity is highly commendable. But none of that amounts to a “Maori economy”.

And when you take a close look at that blossoming business activity, the big time players are mostly doing it with other peoples’ capital assets – the incorporations, corporate iwi, settlement entities, fisheries entities and the rest. Very few of the players are real capitalists, entrepreneurs and innovators doing it with their own money. Which is not to denigrate what they are achieving but it does bring a sense of perspective.

And who benefits?

In Aotearoa New Zealand the economic health and well being of New Zealand families is totally dependant on the global economy, and the state of the New Zealand economy functioning within the global economy. Their economic well being is influenced by political ideology and policy, both global and national.

Significant measures of the well being of New Zealand families are levels of employment and unemployment, average and median household incomes, and the quality of housing. Directly contributing to measurement of the relative well being of Maori families within those statistics is the level of educational achievement and qualification. Those measures over time are indicators of the number of Maori families that improve their well being, by moving into the socio-economic “middle class”.

So we need to ask, “How are Maori families benefitting from this so-called Maori economy, or how will they benefit, and what are the statistical measures that will reflect that?”

It is a matter of statistical record that in the advanced economies of the world the gap between top income earners and the rest has widened astronomically over the last twenty or so years. That trend is also evident in Aotearoa New Zealand. Those at the top of the economic pile are doing rather nicely thank you, much better than they used to, and paying much less tax than they used to, if any. Those in the middle are doing it tough. Those at the bottom are struggling, still. Change will eventually come, but not any time soon.

Which Maori families then will benefit from this surge of business activity based on the improving productive capacity of Maori economic assets?

For the most part they will be and are the elites who control those Maori economic assets, whether in governance or management. For the most part they are the only ones who will and do personally benefit from the assets they control. There is some downstream benefit but not a lot. Certainly not enough to make any difference to the overall social and economic statistics for Maori. I do not expect the economic health and well being of Maori families to be significantly influenced by the “Maori economy”. Most of us do not play any part in that “Maori economy”.

This misnamed mythical “Maori economy” can in some respects be seen as a gilded metaphor for asset and resource capture by the elites for the primary benefit of the elites.

See also: The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur

Maori Policy: Whanau, Hapu, Iwi Mythology

Maori policy is based largely on ideology rather than evidence, and that ideology is often pure mythology. The whanau-hapu-iwi construct and the way it is promoted in policy is pure myth..

The Basis of Some of the Mythology

There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the early history of Maori in Aotearoa. Much of it stems from historical accounts written by Pakeha in the late 19th and early 20th century. Many of these early “experts” were poorly educated men who set themselves up as experts and became authoritative sources. All of them set out to situate Maori history and Maori culture within simple fixed frameworks that would make complex migration and settlement history easily understood, and complex relationships between groups simple. It is doubtful that they themselves ever fully understood the reality of Maori before European settlement, and not much more post settlement.

What they did do was collect a great deal of still valuable oral history including whakapapa and stories of the ancestors and they recorded it in writing. They also had access to written accounts by Maori, which they translated and recorded. Most often however they applied their own interpretations to that information and constructed their version of our history and their version of our social, economic and political lives. The big picture they constructed was often wrong, but the detail they collected remains a valuable resource.

The early ethnologists sought to discover and promote a Grand Design within which they might conveniently posit all of Maoridom and all of our history. As part of this grand design they collected volumes of whakapapa hoping to create a single forty or fifty generational whakapapa for all Maori everywhere linking us all back to our single origin. Some of them even constructed such a grand whakapapa, making alterations and interpretations where the evidence didn’t fit the grand design.

A glaring example of mythological construct is the Great Fleet of migration waka from the Pacific Islands to Aotearoa New Zealand. This myth says that the seagoing migration vessels or waka, sometimes called canoes, Aotea, Arawa, Kurahaupo, Mataatua, Tainui, Takitimu and Tokomaru, all departed and arrived together. It’s a great story but pure fiction. There were many more waka than those seven and their arrivals were spread over a long period.

Buying into the Myths

The problem for Maori is that advanced learning about our own history was confined to the Whare Wananga, houses of learning, and to those few adepts accepted into their curricula. They were usually only rangatira or chiefs and those gifted individuals destined to become tohunga or priests. As in all pre-Enlightenment societies worldwide before the introduction of mass schooling, information and education were restricted to the ruling class and to those who served to protect their power. The people relied entirely for their information on those who held the information.

Thus it was that with the demise of the power and influence of old time rangatira and tohunga, and with the rise of the missionaries and other European “experts” as the holders of knowledge, Maori themselves were introduced to the Pakeha version of our history and reality.

Once you displace the holders of one version of knowledge it is easy to impose an alternative version of knowledge. Disastrously we came to believe it. And so in my grandparents’ generation right down to my children’s generation these myths were believed and passed on. The Great Fleet is perhaps the most outstanding example that has hopefully almost been expunged from the record in the last twenty or thirty years.

Social, Economic & Political Structure

The chiefly authority of the Maori was direct, but the descent of that authority was just narrowed to the one hapu and it may even be to one whanau.”  –  Sir Apirana Ngata

A huge misconception is the whanau-hapu-iwi construct in which Maori society is perceived as a fixed hierarchy with each iwi consisting of a number of hapu and each hapu of a number of whanau. The model can be more complex when some hapu might consist of a number of smaller hapu and they in turn have a number of constituent whanau.

The early European commentators then ascribed the names tribe (iwi), sub-tribe (hapu) and family (whanau) to this neat and tidy hierarchy. Whanau could also be described as (simple or basic) whanau or extended whanau. This model of Maori social structure provides a simple and easily understood framework.

It is however too simple and does not reflect either past or present reality. The problem is that the model has become widely accepted by both Maori and Pakeha, including Maori academics and scholars. The model is used by politicians and policy makers and is one of the bedrock assumptions upon which Maori policy and Maori affairs are based. Much modern Maori policy is aimed at “iwi” with resource allocation, programme delivery and claims settlement made through a modern construct that I and others have labeled corporate iwi.

The iwi-hapu-whanau construct is just another myth. I have to acknowledge that I too have often used this model as a lazy short-cut way to describe Maori society.

The Reality

Firstly in most instances the concept of a unified iwi was and is not possible to sustain in reality. For reasons of distance, travel time (by waka or on foot), and communication, the hapu was the largest workable social, economic and political entity with up to 1000 people but usually less, most often much less. It could contain less than 100 people. The only exceptions are those iwi which were quite small and confined to a relatively small area. In the past each hapu was entirely autonomous acting within its own boundaries containing its own food and other essential resources, under its own leadership and acting in its own interests, especially in its own interests. It might or might not join forces with related and neighbouring hapu, or go to the aid or support of related hapu descended from a common eponymous ancestor. But that was never guaranteed. There often had to be something in it for them to do so.

There are no early records at all to indicate that hapu ever thought of themselves as being subordinate to an iwi in any social, economic or political sense. They would of course acknowledge common descent and regard themselves as being identified with other hapu of common descent in the sense that they were “iwi” or “bones”. But they never functioned as a corporate iwi entity in any sense at all.

The “hapu” was the “tribe”, rather than a sub-tribe. By labeling hapu as “sub-tribe” in the English language the early Pakeha ethnographers and policy makers altered forever our perception of ourselves. Hapu were autonomous “tribes”, not “sub-tribes”. Some hapu functioned as autonomous sub-tribes of other hapu – hapu matua. Clusters of hapu also functioned together in cooperation.

Hapu were formed and reformed all the time. Groups of people might split off and move away for a number of reasons including overcrowding, disputes over land and resources, personal and leadership disputes, or curiosity wanderlust and exploration. As they moved away, migrated and settled elsewhere they might at first just regard themselves as a splinter group of the old hapu and would eventually adopt a new hapu name to describe themselves. They might regard themselves as a new hapu from the very beginning.

If there were previous inhabitants in their new location they might have overcome them and absorbed them into themselves, they might have been absorbed into the other, they might merge with the others into a completely new hapu entity, or they might have co-existed as separate entities. There was no fixed process at all. In this way, as people dispersed, moved, migrated, settled and merged, hapu formation was happening all the time (generationally speaking) in a rather random fashion as circumstances dictated. Over time with strategic and non-strategic inter-marriage between unrelated groups many hapu were descended from two or more major eponymous ancestors – hapu aho rua.

On the other hand they didn’t all move away in order to redefine themselves. As hapu got larger, groups within that hapu might remain in place but name themselves after a closer eponymous ancestor, and be accepted by others as such. In so doing they would proclaim their autonomy.

This was an organic and continuous process with old hapu ceasing to exist and new hapu coming into existence throughout history, most but not all of them autonomous.

Maori society was a shifting and fluid system of contracts, alliances and power balances giving rise to that organic and continuous process. It involved territorial boundaries and the control and exclusive use of food and other resources within those boundaries. It involved agreements to share and allow access to some resources, and the exchange of foodstuffs and other goods such as stone implements. The whole system was governed by the principle of utu or reciprocity, peaceful or otherwise. Differences and disputes arose from time to time, sometimes leading to warfare which may have been an effective and conclusive solution for one side at least, but was often ineffective and inconclusive. Strategic arranged intermarriage, especially between the chiefly families, was effective as a deterrent to warfare and in peacemaking after warfare, at least for one or two generations, and was widely practised.

The protagonists in this fluid system were the chiefs, not iwi and not even hapu. These were arrangements, contracts, alliances and power balances between chiefs. The power behind the chiefs was the number of followers they were able to attract and hold through the ties of kinship, through their personal leadership qualities, through their dedication to the quality of life of their people, and their ability to provide that quality of life.

It is often said, “Ko te kai a te rangatira he korero”, but I maintain, “Ko te mahi a te rangatira he kai”.

Hungry people will find new chiefs. The better fed the people, the larger the hapu and the greater the power, influence and ability of the chief to maintain hegemony over the land and the people.

The local environment and the number of people the environment and its resources could sustain was a huge factor in the whole process, and often a constraint. It was not an entirely human process.

The need to feed the people and the fluid and shifting arrangements, contracts, alliances and power balances between chiefs largely accounted for the ebb and flow of hapu formation and dissolution, and migration and settlement, throughout the generations. That was not a fixed hierarchical society in which the iwi could function in any way, shape or form as a social, economic, corporate or political entity.

Within my own rohe identification as a distinct “iwi” did not occur until the 1830s when the musket wars and invasions by marauding bands into the rohe killed what has been estimated as half the population of Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa, and forced most of the rest of those descended from Kahungunu to seek protection and refuge at Nukutaurua on the Mahia Peninsula. There they came under the protection of Te Wera Hauraki from Ngapuhi in the distant north. He had the muskets to provide protection in return for a grant of land for himself of course. While there they traded to obtain muskets for themselves and eventually returned to their lands.

During that period at Nukutaurua a distinct Ngati Kahungunu iwi identity across the whole rohe was forged for the first time ever. The chiefs of the different hapu at Nukutaurua formed alliances and in many instances helped each other to repel the invaders. However they were independent and autonomous chiefs acting together rather than submitting to a common entity under an overall leadership. When they returned to their respective areas they continued to act autonomously. The “iwi” didn’t happen in reality until the era of the modern corporate iwi, greatly influenced by government policies requiring that Government deal only through “mandated iwi”.

The myth of the iwi became entrenched into mainstream Pakeha and Maori thought through the theories of the early Pakeha commentators, through the compliance and ambition of some Maori leadership, and through the judges of the Native Land Court, later the Maori Land Court, seeking to simplify their own understanding. The Department of Native (later Maori) Affairs also fostered the myth by seeking to lump disparate hapu into iwi in order to deal with and sometimes exert control or influence over larger entities. The myth found fertile ground in our own ignorance and compliance.

Mythology and Policy

The whanau-hapu-iwi construct is the prevailing perception and it has been applied retrospectively to non-existent iwi entities of the past. It is a bedrock belief upon which a great deal of Maori policy has been and is being based. Regardless of that it remains a post-colonial construct, a myth.

What is happening in the present however with the emergence of corporate iwi cannot be denied and is part of the ongoing transformation of tribal structure towards something perhaps that might eventually reflect the social structure of our mostly urban and increasingly global dispersion. Or it might not. There is a great gulf between present invented tribal structure and present social reality. There are no guarantees at all in this political evolution, and it is political rather than social or cultural.

I tend to think however that this whole impetus based on the whanau-hapu-iwi construct and other mythology is leading Maori policy down a blind alley where the Maori political and business elites are the main beneficiaries. Meanwhile the rest of us 810,200 Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia know that we are beholden to the wider global and national polity and economy for the unfolding of our futures. We know that Maori policy whether based on mythology and ideology, or on real evidence, will ultimately have little or no influence on those futures. Only the elites believe. The rest of us are getting on with our lives.

And while the Maori policy paddlers keep paddling, the waka is dead in the water. Indeed, if you look at Maori social and economic statistics you could be forgiven for thinking it’s going backwards.